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Nurse Advice: Insect Bites

Nurse Advice: Insect Bites Summer is almost here and the "buzz" on the COPA Phone Advice line is INSECT BITES! I want to offer you some advice to help make your outdoor dinners, hikes, campouts and trips to the lake as fun and free as possible from those “pesty” insect bites. Your best efforts to prevent the bite are the best advice I can give you. Have your kids wear protective cotton clothing, tuck the pant legs inside socks and shoes and put on long-sleeved shirts and a stylish hat. In addition to packing all the snacks, drinks, clothes, umbrellas and sun screen; you may want to add the first aid products included below if there is room in the backpack. Be mindful that these creatures of nature love to buzz around water so look outside your home or campsite for any puddles which are breeding grounds for more insects. Try to avoid the peak insect hours of sunrise and sunset which is also some of the most peak outdoor summer fun times too!

Insect repellents containing DEET 30% or less are approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics for all children above 2 months old in preventing many insect bites. Read the label carefully. Use 30% DEET for 6 hour protection and 10% DEET if you need protection for 2 hours. DEET can damage clothing made of synthetic fibers but can be applied to cotton clothing. Permethrin products can be applied to skin or clothing such as Duranon, Permanone. They also repel ticks. Picaridin products are newly approved and equivalent to 10% DEET. Wash all products off with soap and water when your child returns indoors. There are some alternative repellents, some are not approved for children <3 years old such as Oil of lemon eucalyptus which is as effective as 10% DEET and Don’t bug me.

Bites of mosquitoes, fleas, and bedbugs usually cause itchy, red bumps. Painful insect bites are of horseflies, black flies, deer flies, gnats, harvester ants, blister beetles, and centipedes. If the child has difficulty breathing, swallowing or wheezing, hoarseness or a cough with rapid onset you need to call EMS 911. Most children do just fine however and can be treated at home. For itchy insect bites you may apply calamine lotion or baking soda paste. If those are not handy at the campsite; grab an ice cube from your tall, refreshing beverage and set it inside your party napkin and rub it on the bite for 20 minutes. Your friends will applaud your resourceful first aid techniques. If the itch is severe, use 1% hydrocortisone cream. Apply 4 times a day until the itch is mild, and then switch to calamine lotion. If the bite is painful, rub for 15 -20 minutes with a cotton ball soaked in a meat tenderizer solution you brought along for the steaks. (Do not use near the eye). If the bite has a scab and looks infected, apply an antibiotic ointment 4 times a day such as Bacitracin after washing the sore and cover with a Band-Aid. If your child has severe pain and pain medicine does not help after 2 hours, or the bite looks infected with red streaks, increased tenderness and redness or your child becomes worse-you need to call COPA.

I hope you all have a healthy, fun and happy summer and don’t get bugged.

Nurse Denise RN, COPA Advice Line

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