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Safety and Injuries > Bug Safety

Bug Safety

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Bug repellants

  • Under 2 months of age it is not recommended to use bug repellents.
  • DEET is most effective against ticks and is the recommended product by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC for all insect repellents.  The concentration must be at least 20% to be effective against ticks.
  • The CDC recommends that people use a repellent anytime they go outside, especially during prime mosquito biting hours, which are between dusk and dawn.
  • Seven percent DEET lasts about 90 minutes.  Ten percent DEET lasts about 2 hours.  Twenty percent DEET lasts about 5 hours.  One hundred percent DEET lasts 10-12 hours.  It is recommended to use 30% DEET for all people over 2 months of age.
  • It is important to follow the instructions for using the repellent that are on the label and reapply the repellent if you or your child gets bitten.
  • Apply DEET once per 24 hr period and wash skin and clothing when returning indoors.
  • Do not use combination bug spray/sunscreen.  Use the product specific to current needs (mosquitos aren't usually around in the heat of the sun!)
  • Because mosquitoes can bite through thin clothing, spray clothes with insect repellent.
  • If you apply insect repellent to exposed skin, do so sparingly.  More is not better.  Do not apply repellent to your child's hands, as it can cause irritation if your child touches his or her eyes.
  • Avoid spraying the repellent anywhere near the mouth, so that your child doesn't ingest it.
  • Repellents containing the ingredient picaridin or the oil of lemon eucalyptus can protect people against mosquitoes (not ticks) as well as repellents containing the chemical DEET. 
  • You can use products that contain permethrin on clothing - ones that come pre-treated may be protective longer. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin, following package directions.
  • Oil of eucalyptus is not recommended for kids under the age of 3.
  • Citronella and lavender oil have NOT been proven to be as effective as DEET. Citronella is generally felt to be safe topically, though many people develop allergic rashes after application. Ingestion of citronella has lead to the death of at least one toddler. Lavender oil is similar to estrogen and may lead to premature puberty or breast development in males.
  • For more on how to choose the proper repellant for the occasion, check out the EPA's website.

Treatment

For treatment of insect bites and stings, click here.

Other Avoidance Tips

  • Don't use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays.
  • Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in bloom.
  • Avoid dressing in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints.
  • To remove a visible stinger from skin, gently scrape it off horizontally with a credit card or your fingernail. 
  • Stay indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering your home.  Also, repair broken or damaged screens.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors, whenever possible.
  • Don't rely on vitamin B, ultrasonic devices, or other unproven devices to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Be sure to eliminate mosquito-breeding areas around your home by removing standing water from gutters, old tires, wading pools, tarps, potted plants, and other outside buckets and pails.  Also, be sure the water in pet dishes and birdbaths is changed regularly.

Ticks

  • DEET is the only proven repellent effective against ticks, but it must be at least 20% DEET.
  • Ticks most often bite at the belt line or neckline, groin, armpits, tops of shoes, or on the scalp.  If you or your child is in a tick-prone area, do a tick check twice daily.  Look closely at spots that resemble small freckles and moles:  Some ticks are very small.  Use a fine-tooth comb to search the hair.
  • If a tick is found:  Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with a pair of fine -tipped tweezers.  A wide tip is more likely to squish the body of the tick.  Do not put pressure on the tick’s body, as this can cause the tick to regurgitate back into the person’s skin.  Apply slow, steady traction to the tick straight up from the skin.  Do not jerk or twist.  After removal, search the skin carefully for any remaining tick parts.  If parts remain that you cannot remove with the tweezers, most often they can be left alone.  Mouth parts that are removed from the body of the tick will not transmit disease.  Attempting to remove the parts might cause more damage than good.  Keep the area clean and they will most often work themselves out.  If a secondary infection develops (redness, pus, pain) please bring your child in to be seen by one of our providers.  For more information on tick removal and diseases, click here.
  • To reduce the chances of getting a tick bite, avoid tall grass or thick ground cover and dense woods.  Try to stay on cleared trails.  Wear long pants tucked into socks or boots.  Wear a long sleeve shirt that is tucked in at the waist.  Don’t wear sandals or other open shoes.  Spray a repellent with DEET on clothes.  Protect your pets from ticks also, as they may carry them into your home.
  • Remember most ticks do not carry disease, so we do not recommend antibiotics for every tick bite. If any symptoms develop, evaluation for treatment is needed.

See "Insect borne diseases" for symptoms to watch for if a disease is transmitted from a tick or other insect.

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