Bug Bites and Stings
Flying and crawling pests like mosquitoes, bees, and ticks are more than just annoying; they can carry illnesses such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease. While Lyme disease is most common in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest states, as well as along the northern Pacific coast of California, cases of West Nile virus have been reported in nearly every state.
The best way to protect children, especially babies, is to keep them out of situations where they're more likely to encounter these buggers. For instance, keep infants indoors or in a screened area. Older kids shouldn't be outdoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes and other insects are out in force.
When you're outside, the best protection from most bites is insect repellent containing deet, says Dr. Mancini. But deet should never be used on children under 2 months old.
For older kids, products with 10 to 30 percent deet are now considered safe, says William B. Weil, MD, professor emeritus in the department of pediatrics and human development at Michigan State University.
"The higher the concentration, the longer it lasts," says Dr. Weil, who is also a member of the AAP environmental health committee. Still, some experts recommend only the lower deet concentration -- 10 percent -- for young children, who shouldn't be outside for long periods of time anyway.
Make sure you apply insect repellent only sparingly near a child's mouth or fingers so they don't ingest it, and keep it away from cuts. Remember to wash it off with soap and water once indoors. Also steer clear of dual sunscreen/insect repellents, both Dr. Mancini and Dr. Weil say. You should apply repellent only once a day, but reapply sunscreen several times. Using a combination of the two can mean overdosing on repellent.
If you live in an area where ticks are a concern, dress your baby in long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks for additional protection. Check her regularly for ticks and consider using a permethrin spray -- a repellent sold in hiking or outdoor stores -- on clothing or tents, but never on skin. Look for the Permanone brand, or any product that lists permethrin as an ingredient.
Finally, banish bee concerns by avoiding bright clothing, fragrances, and places where bees gather, says Dr. Elston. Wearing shoes can also protect your child's feet if he steps on a bee.