MD Mama

4 Simple Ways to Prevent Mosquito Bites

It's that time of year when I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about..mosquitoes.

As a pediatrician, I am always talking with families about preventing mosquito bites. I have a lot of patients who travel to the Caribbean and South America over the summer, so along with talking about West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, I also talk with families about preventing malaria, dengue and the remarkably nasty chikungunya virus.

As a parent, I worry about illness too--and nobody likes to see their child covered in itchy bites (or get covered in itchy bites themselves).

Preventing mosquito bites isn't rocket science--and yet we don't always do what we should or could. As obvious as this advice might be, it's always worth giving again:

1. Use insect repellent. We keep it right next to the door, so that folks can spray before they leave. The repellents that best do the trick are ones that contain DEET (N,N-di-ethyl-meta-toluimide). Preparations of up to 30 percent are okay to use on kids. The higher the percentage, the longer it lasts; you may not need 30 percent if you're only going to be out for an hour or so. DEET is also the best thing to use to prevent tick bites too.

DEET shouldn't be used in babies less than 2 months old, and can be toxic (although toxicity is rare). A more natural alternative is oil of lemon eucalyptus, which works almost as well. The Environmental Protection Agency has a great tool you can use to figure out which insect repellent is best for your circumstances (it even has brand names, which is very helpful).

Spraying clothes is a good idea too--and a way to use less on the skin.

2. Empty out, and don't hang out near standing water. Baby pools, birdbaths, buckets filled with rainwater all can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Camping right next to a pond isn't such a good plan either.

3. Try to limit outside time between dawn and dusk. That's when the mosquitoes are out full force (we had a graduation party for our eldest kids last weekend and were literally chased inside by bugs at dusk). If you need to be outside, try to wear long sleeves and pants, and use bug spray on the clothes.

4. Make barriers between you and the bugs. Use screens (fix those holes that always seem to happen over the winter) and mosquito netting.

Here's a short video on how best to put on repellent. You can find more videos and information at the Mass.Gov website.

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