Children's, Health and Safety

Choosing an Insect Repellent

insect-repellantMosquitoes are a concern any summer, but this summer in particular, the focus is on protecting against mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus.

The Zika virus is transmitted to people by a mosquito bite from an infected Aedesspecies mosquito. The Aedesmosquito is an aggressive daytime biter, but it also bites at night.The Zika virus can cause symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (pink eye) lasting several days to weeks.

Insect repellents can help protect against mosquito bites. Ann Slattery, managing director of the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama, offers some tips on safelyapplying insect repellent:

  • Do not allow young children to apply insect repellent themselves.
  • Do not apply to young children’s hands or around eyes and mouth. Adults should spray the repellent into hands and then apply on child’s face.
  • Cover up with long pants and long sleeves when possible, especially if you need protection form both sun and mosquitoes.
  • Spray the outside of your child’s clothes, including hats, with insect repellent.
  • Wash your hands after applying repellent. Wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.

Types of Insect Repellent
Two commonly used repellents are DEET(chemical name: N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) and picaridin. DEET is considered the “gold standard” for repelling mosquitoes, and both products have been deemed safe for use on children two months of age and older.

Read the product label to determine the concentration of DEET or picaridin.Higher concentrations mean longer periods that the product will offer protection.With either ingredient, choose the lowest concentration that will provide the required length of coverage.

A concentration of 10 percent to 30 percent DEET is recommended for children. For example, 10 percent DEET product provides protection for about two hours, and 30 percent DEET protects for about five hours.Products containinga picaridinconcentration of 20 percent protect up to seven hours against mosquitoes.

Slattery said she does not recommend products that are a combination of sunscreen and insect repellent. “Sunscreen needs to be reapplied based on the SPF, but too much insect repellent could lead to toxicity,” she said.

Preventing Repellent Poisoning
If your child experiences any skin redness or irritation from an insect repellent, immediately wash the skin with mild soap and water. If there is a more serious reaction, including welts or a sever rash, contact his or her pediatrician.

If the repellent gets in your child’s eye, irrigate the eye with water for about 10 to 15 minutes. “Bring the child to a faucet and position him so that the spigot is over the bridge of the nose and the affected eye is closest to the drain. Have the child blink occasionally while the water is running over the eye,” Slattery said. The eye may look puffy initially after flushing, because water does not have the same composition as our natural tears. Then place a cool compress over the eye for about 30 minutes.

If any repellent gets in to your child’s mouth, have him rinse it out with about an ounce of water. After any exposure, Slattery said parents should call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 with any questions or concerns.

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