No-Panic Guide to Kids' Cooties

Fleas

What is it?
Pinhead-size brown bugs that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals (often cats or dogs).

What to look for
Fleas don't fly but can jump from a pet onto carpeting and people. Bites appear as tiny red bumps or pustules, often on exposed skin below the knee and in a line.

What to do
Wash bites with soap and water, and apply an anti-itch cream. Discourage scratching, which can lead to infection.

How to prevent it
Talk to your vet about the best flea control for your pet; flea collars can leave chemical residues that are dangerous to kids. Use insect repellent when your child plays in a public area (like a park sandbox).

Sources: Mervyn Elgart, M.D., a professor emeritus of dermatology at the George Washington University Medical School, in Washington, D.C.; Dan Levy, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in Baltimore; Anthony J. Mancini, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics and dermatology at Northwestern University Medical School, in Chicago.

Copyright © 2002 . Reprinted with permission from the August 2002 issue of Parents magazine.

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