How to Prevent Mosquito Bites

From what to wear, what not to wear, and how to treat your yard, follow these tips to keep mosquitos away from your kids.

When it comes to keeping mosquito bites at bay, it all starts with the right repellent. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends products with DEET, which protects against Lyme disease, West Nile virus, and Zika virus. Kids 2 months and older can safely use a repellent with 5 to 7 percent DEET. (A child doesn’t need an eight-hour formula with 25 percent DEET.) If you’re in a low-risk area, use a product that contains 5 percent DEET or less.

father son enjoying outdoors

While you might be inclined to think a DIY or natural repellent option is safer, experts warn that these typically protect you for only 15 to 20 minutes while repellent with 5 percent DEET lasts 90 minutes or so. Therefore, going natural would mean reapplying more often—no thanks!

With the right repellent in your arsenal, here are a few more expert tips for preventing mosquito bites.

Know How to Sunscreen

As convenient as a sunscreen-repellent combo sounds, it’s better to keep them separate. “These tend to dilute the effectiveness of both products,” says Jonathan F. Day, Ph.D., professor emeritus of medical entomology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, in Vero Beach. Apply sunscreen first and then repellent by spraying it onto your hands and rubbing it onto your child’s skin. Be careful to avoid his eyes, nose, and mouth. (Never apply it to his hands, which may end up in his eyes and mouth.)

Dress Wisely

In the evening or when you’re around mosquitoes, wear a long-sleeved shirt, long and baggier pants, and socks. Breathable fabrics with a tight weave, such as the quick-dry materials used in athletic wear, are difficult for mosquitoes to penetrate. In particularly high-risk areas, you may want to pick garments that are pretreated with the insecticide permethrin. “When a mosquito lands on this clothing, it will fly off and die,” says Dr. Day.

Safeguard The Yard

“If you have a semi-enclosed patio or a pool area with two or three walls, a mosquito lantern that releases permethrin can be effective,” says Dr. Day. Don’t bother with citronella candles, torches, and lanterns; even the slightest breeze blows the active ingredient away. For open areas, rely on wind power. Set out a big box fan. “Once the air speed reaches more than 1 mile per hour, mosquitoes have a difficult time flying,” says Dr. Day.

Updated by Ingela Ratledge
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