‘Tis The Season–To Be Bitten
Summer is my favorite season—the long hours of sunlight, the warm days just made for the pool, and no snow to worry about!
But, there are some unpleasant guests that appear during the summer season: biting insects, including mosquitoes, ticks, and flies. Mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis in the US, and travelers outside the US might encounter mosquitoes carrying malaria, yellow fever, or dengue fever. Ticks can spread Lyme disease, human babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Most of the time we are bothered by mosquitoes in between the hours of dusk to dawn, but there are some mosquitoes in some parts of the world, including the US, that bite during daylight hours.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has the following recommendations for use of insect repellents:
Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label). Do not use repellents under clothing.
Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin. When using sprays, do not spray directly on face—spray on hands first and then apply to face. Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears.
Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing. Heavy application and saturation are generally unnecessary for effectiveness. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, then apply a bit more.
After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. Also, wash treated clothing before wearing it again.
If you or your child get a rash or other bad reaction from an insect repellent, stop using the repellent, wash the repellent off with mild soap and water, and call a local poison control center for further guidance. If you go to a doctor because of the repellent, take the repellent with you to show the doctor.
I have had lots of patients ask me what type of insect repellant works best and is safest. The CDC recommends the use of products containing active ingredients which have been registered by the EPA for use as repellents on skin and clothing. EPA registration of repellent active ingredients indicates the materials have been reviewed and approved for efficacy and human safety when applied according to the directions on the label.
Of the active ingredients registered with the EPA, the CDC believes that two have demonstrated a higher degree of efficacy in studies, and products containing these active ingredients typically provide longer-lasting protection than others:
DEET and Picaridin. There is also a product available called Repel. It contains oil of lemon eucalyptus, which is more natural and is classified as a “biopesticide repellent”. It cannot be used on children less than 3 years old.
Can insect repellents be used on children? All repellent products must list any age restriction. If there is none on the label, the EPA has not required a restriction on that product. The American Academy of Pediatrics updated their recommendation for use of DEET products on children in 2003. The AAP states that “products with a concentration of 10% appear to be as safe as products with a concentration of 30% when used according to the directions on the label”. AAP recommends that repellents with DEET should not be used on infants less than 2 months old.
When using a repellent on children, in addition to the guidelines above, do not apply to children’s hands (children may tend to put their hands in their mouths or rub their eyes). Do not allow young children to apply insect repellent to themselves; have an adult do it for them. And, keep repellents out of reach of children.
What about pregnant or nursing women? The EPA does not recommend any additional precautions for using
registered repellents on pregnant or nursing women.
There ARE other ways to protect yourself from biting insects! Mosquito netting can be used over infant carriers. Wear light-colored, loose clothes and avoid using scented products when outdoors, especially at peak mosquito-biting hours. Remove standing water near your house–it can be a mosquito breeding ground. To avoid ticks, tuck pants into socks and wear closed shoes and a hat. Inspect yourself for ticks after venturing into wooded or grassy areas.
I hope everyone has a wonderful and bite-free summer!
Blessings to you,