Most of the time, a mosquito bite is annoying but not serious. But once in a while bites become a problem — and that’s especially a concern when your baby is the one suffering.
In most cases, mosquito bites on even the youngest kids are very mild and resolve on their own, says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, who teaches pediatric dermatology at USC. She notes, however, that some children have a strong reaction to the insects' saliva, and those bites can last anywhere from weeks to months.
But even bites that don’t become a longstanding issue are irritating, and worth preventing — or treating, if it’s too late to keep those mosquitoes from having a feast on your little one. Fortunately, there are a lot of great ways to prevent bug bites.
Put repellent on after sunscreen has dried, Shainhouse recommends, and continue to reapply sunscreen on top over the course of the day. Physical barriers like a net or long sleeves and pants can also be a good idea.
And of course, preventing mosquito bites also means preventing the West Nile virus, which has been found in mosquitoes throughout Canada. The Government of Canada website has important information on the virus, including the risks for different people and in different areas.
Read these twelve tips on preventing and treating mosquito bites safely for babies.
Try calamine lotion: The over-the-counter medication contains zinc oxide, which has a soothing effect, Shainhouse says. If that’s not doing the trick, she suggests giving a topical hydrocortisone cream a try.
Use natural scents: Lavender, peppermint, basil, garlic, and eucalyptus smell great in their own right and also help repel mosquitoes, says Amy Lawhorne, vice president of Mosquito Squad. "Many of these scents can be worn as an essential oil on your skin to help keep these pesky pests from biting."
Choose colours wisely: Mosquitoes tend to be attracted to dark colours like black and navy, Lawhorne says, so wearing light-coloured clothing and accessories could help keep them away. "They are also attracted to ultraviolet, fluorescent, and blue light,” she says. “It’s best to avoid these as well."
Consider DEET: "DEET is used as the active ingredient in many insect repellents and offers the best protection against mosquito bites,” Lawhorne says. But be careful with younger babies. "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using stronger than 30-per-cent DEET on children, and to avoid using it on children under two months of age,” Shainhouse notes.
Also look at Picaridin: Also known as KBR 3023 or Icaridin, this repellent smells much better than DEET and can also be effective, Shainhouse says — it’s what you’ll find in Avon Skin-So-Soft. It also is safe for infants ages two months or older.
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Avoid sunscreen/repellent combos: Products that combine sunscreen and bug repellent aren’t recommended for children, Lawhorne says. “You have to reapply the sunscreen every two hours, whereas the insect repellent should not be reapplied,” she says.
Use netting for babies: If you live in an area with a high mosquito population, use netting to protect infants younger than two months old, Lawhorne says. "Mosquito netting is also beneficial if you like to sleep with the windows or doors open at night, providing mosquitoes access."
Watch for allergies: "If your child is allergic to mosquito bites, they may develop severe redness and swelling around the bite site,” Shainhouse says. Oral antihistamines can help for children who are old enough to use them — talk to your doctor about appropriate ages and dosages first. "If the redness and swelling persists or progresses for more than 24 hours or becomes painful, contact your pediatrician,” she says. "It is unlikely to be infected, but it could be a strong hypersensitivity reaction."
Save that tea bag: To soothe a bug bite, brew a cup of green tea, and put the bag in the fridge or freezer until it’s cooled all the way through. "Hold a refrigerated, damp green tea bag on the bite,” Lawhorne says. "The tea compounds help with inflammation and the cold assists in soothing the itch."
Get fresh basil: Basil can help soothe bug bites safety. "Studies suggest this common herb contains compounds that can relieve itchy skin,” Lawhorne says. "Either crush some up and apply directly or buy the essential oil."
Try Preparation H: You might associate Preparation H with a different kind of irritation, but a dab of it can help soothe a bug bite. "The active ingredient (phenylephrine) in the cream is known to reduce swelling and irritation,” Lawhorne says.
When it’s an emergency: "If you observe any signs of lip, tongue, or eyelid swelling or if you notice any difficulty speaking or breathing, call 911 immediately, as this may be a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction,” Shainhouse says. If you know your child has an allergy to mosquito or other bug bites or has had an anaphylactic reaction to one in the past, you or any adult accompanying them should carry and EpiPen and know how to use it, she says.