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Mosquitoes and Kids

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: We live in an area with a lot of mosquitoes in the summertime. My son seems to be attracting a lot of mosquitoes. He even came down with impetigo via a mosquito bite. I put on all sorts of mosquito repellent creams on him all day long, burn mosquito coils, and have taken all measures not to attract mosquitoes into the house. Nothing seems to be very effective. Two questions concerning this problem: 1) are little kids (my son is two-and-a-half-years-old) as bothered by mosquito bites as adults, and 2) what else is there to do other than what I am already doing?

A: This is a tough problem. There is a lot of individual variability in how people respond to insect bites. Some people get more swelling and irritation than others. I don't think kids get more mosquito bites than adults, but they do tend to have more significant responses to them, with swelling, itching, and redness. Kids are also less capable of resisting the urge to scratch, making them more likely to get infected.

You're right to focus on preventing the bites from occurring. I would start off by avoiding outdoor exposure during peak mosquito times: dusk is when they tend to come out in large numbers. Plan to do some sort of indoor activity during that time. The other thing is to try to have him wear long pants and sleeves. This can be difficult to do if it is very hot, though if you use light cotton clothes it is often quite comfortable.

You do want to be careful about using insect repellents as the active ingredient, diethyl toluamide (DEET), can be toxic if absorbed through the skin in large amounts. Definitely use products that are made for kids, with no more than 15% DEET in them. If you use a stronger product, consider spraying it on the edges of the clothes. It will keep the bugs away but won't be touching your child. Remember to wash the repellent off of his skin when he comes back in the house.

If mosquitoes inside the house are a problem and you can't seem to get rid of them, you may want to consider getting some mosquito netting to put over his bed to prevent him from being bitten at night.

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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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