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How to protect your kids from insect bites

| Monday, May 23, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
This file photo taken on January 25, 2016 shows an Aedes Aegypti mosquito photographed on human skin in a lab of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center (CIDEIM) in Cali, Colombia.
AFP/Getty Images
This file photo taken on January 25, 2016 shows an Aedes Aegypti mosquito photographed on human skin in a lab of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center (CIDEIM) in Cali, Colombia.
Dr. Robin Gehris of Children’s Hospital of UPMC.
Dr. Robin Gehris of Children’s Hospital of UPMC.

Mosquito season is almost here and, with the constant buzz about the Zika virus, we asked Dr. Robin Gehris how to protect children from insect bites. Gehris is chief of pediatric dermatology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

What are the best ways to protect infants from biting insects?

Protective clothing that has long sleeves and pants are best. Socks can be used to seal the bottom openings of the pant legs so that no insects can sneak in.

A bug screen for the stroller can be a helpful measure. Avoid scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your child. Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in bloom.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends DEET in concentrations of 10 percent to 30 percent only for children older than 2 months of age. DEET is not recommended for children younger than 2 months of age.

Are there any over the counter products parents should avoid?

DEET in concentrations over 30 percent are not approved for use in children. Parents should avoid combination insect repellent-sunscreen products. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend these products because of the fact that insect repellent should only be applied once a day and only to exposed surfaces or clothing. The use of a combination product could result in toxic levels of insecticide for a child. Oil of lemon eucalyptus products are not recommended at all for use on infants or toddlers under 3 years of age. Citronella oil feels natural but in only protects one for up to 30 minutes.

If an infant is bitten, what is the best treatment?

Don't panic. Children get bug bites all the time and the large majority of them have no problems. If you can see a stinger in the skin, gently back it out by scraping it with a credit card or your fingernail. If a rash occurs at or near the site of a recent insect bite and is not improving over the course of several days, feel free to contact your pediatrician or pediatric dermatologist to be evaluated in person.

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