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Top Tips for Preventing and Treating Summer Bug Bites

Top Tips for Preventing and Treating Summer Bug Bites

by Denise Del Colle, RN

Summer is almost here and the "buzz" on the COPA Nurse Advice line is INSECT BITES! Here's the best advice to help make your outdoor dinners, hikes, camp outs and trips to the lake as fun and free as possible from those “pesty” insect bites. 


Dress your kids in protective cotton clothing, tuck the pant legs inside socks and shoes and add long-sleeved shirts and a brimmed hat. Add the first aid products included below to your backpack or tote bag. Mosquitoes love to buzz around water so look outside your home or campsite for any puddles which are breeding grounds for more insects. And, try to avoid the peak insect hours of sunrise and sunset, if possible.


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. Products such as Duranon, are excellent repellents on clothing, also repelling 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, but some are not approved for children less than 3 years old, such as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, which is as effective as 10% DEET, and "Don’t Bug Me". Read more from the CDC on all these repellents.

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 Emergency Services at 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 the cooler, wrap it in a napkin and rub it on the bite for 20 minutes. If the itch is severe, use 1% hydrocortisone cream on children over 2 years old. Apply 4 times a day until the itch is mild, and then switch to calamine lotion. If the bite has a scab and looks infected, wash the sore and apply an antibiotic ointment 4 times a day, such as Bacitracin and cover with a Band-Aid. If your child has severe pain and acetaminophen does not help after 2 hours, or the bite looks infected with red streaks, increased tenderness and redness, or your child becomes worse, you should contact COPA Nurse Advice. 

We hope you have a healthy, fun and happy summer and prevent the little "buggers" from ruining your good times.



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