What’s that old expression, “Let’s not let the treatment be worse than the disease?” This is exactly what the Academy of pediatrics is trying to avoid with their newly published guidelines (1) about insect repellant use in children. Children often spend a lot of time outdoors and are very vulnerable to insect bites. Many proactive parents are lathering their children with insect repellents to guard against nasty bug bites. Unfortunately these repellents, designed to guard against mosquitos can be toxic to young children, act as skin irritants, or trigger allergies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently issued a bulletin on safe use of these products. In particular, repellents containing DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months old. DEET-containing repellents, compared to other repellents, are very effective since mosquitos and other bugs hate the smell of DEET, muck akin to people hating the smell of rotten eggs. Yuck! Unfortunately DEET can cause seizures in high quantities. They also warn that one of the “natural insect repellents” containing eucalyptus oil can irritate a child’s skin and should not be used on children younger than 3 years old. Furthermore, these experts advised against using products containing both sunscreen and repellent, wearing repellent under clothing, using spray repellents indoors, and applying repellent near food and drink items.
Insect repellents were designed solely to protect against bug bites, not harm the ones being protected. Chemical repellents are by no means perfect but can be used safely. Parents should also consider using a more “old school” bug repellent, mosquito nets. These low-tech devices are finding their way onto more and more baby carriages to protect infants from mosquito bites. Of course in the event of a bite, some rubbing alcohol, topical hydrocortisone, or calamine lotion and a little TLC will have the young ones chasing fireflies into the evening in no time.
For more information, check out Doc Smo’s pedcast called, “Stopping bites before they happen”. https://www.docsmo.com/doc-smo-stopping-bug-bites-before-they-happen/.
I welcome your comments at www.docsmo.com. Until next time.
Written collaboratively by Norman Spencer and Paul Smolen M.D.