Protect Children from Biting Insects and Too Much Sun

Kids and long summer days mean a lot of opportunities for outdoor fun, as well as insect bites and sunburn. Joy Rouse, a family life program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, offers these tips for protecting children from biting insects and too much sun.

When using insect repellents on children, follow these guidelines, Rouse said.

  • Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection. Do not apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
  • Do not apply insect repellents to children’s hands.
  • Read and follow the directions on the label.
  • Repellents with DEET should not be used on infants less than 2 months old.
  • Use products with the lowest concentration of DEET that corresponds with the time spent outdoors. DEET 10 percent usually lasts for about one to two hours, while DEET 30 percent generally lasts three to four hours.
  • An alternative to DEET is a product called picaridin.
  • Wash children’s treated skin and clothes with soap and water when they return indoors. Better yet, have them take a bath.
  • Apply sunscreen first, then the repellent.

 Rouse said there are ways to avoid using chemicals to ward off biting insects:

  • Use mosquito netting over infant carriers.
  • When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors.
  • Avoid clothing with bright colors or flowery prints.
  • Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays.
  • Reduce the mosquito population by getting rid of standing water.
  • Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as garbage cans, stagnant pools of water, uncovered food and blooming flowers.

Take care when children are in the sun, Rouse added.

  • Avoid the sun during midday.
  • Everyone should wear a hat and sun-protective clothing.
  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
  • Infants under 6 months should be kept out of the sun.
  • Consult a pediatrician before using sunscreen on an infant.
  • Do not use products that combine DEET with sunscreen.

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