Stories from the Pharmacy:
Insect repellents for your children
Dana, a mother of three ( a 1-month-old baby, a 4 and 6-year-old) came into the pharmacy asking for the best insect repellent I could recommend for her family. She has noticed so many mosquitoes around lately and her children often want to play outside until it starts to get dark. Dana wants to protect her family in the safest and most effective way and is really not sure what insect repellents she can use on her newborn baby and her older children.
I explained to Dana, that it is certainly good timing to be coming in to get insect repellent as mosquito numbers in Victoria have soared as the weather had provided perfect breeding conditions for them.
Depending on where you live, mosquitoes not only leave a red itchy bump on the skin but in rare cases they can carry diseases. Unfortunately, in Australia, we are seeing viruses spread by mosquitoes as an increasing problem. In Victoria last year there were 301 reported cases of Ross River virus and 11 cases of Barmah Forest virus which cause joint inflammation, pain and rashes. Most mosquitoes are just a nuisance leaving their mark, causing us to itch and scratch; but unfortunately, we cannot differentiate a mosquito with an infected disease, from one without.
When it comes to protecting our children, it is important that we use the most effective, most reliable insect repellents.
What I explained to Dana is that Insect repellents should not be used on infants under 2 months of age, so I would not recommend using the repellent on her newborn. To protect her 1-month-old baby, I would recommend a mosquito net that can be stretched over the pram, bassinet or cot. You can certainly spray the outside of the pram with an insect repellent or even the top layer of the babies clothing before dressing the baby (eg. a muslin wrap). For babies older than 2 months: Insect repellents which contain the ingredient DEET or Picaridin have been proven to be the most effective.
I explained the following tips to Dana:
- Only use insect repellent on exposed skin. Do not apply insect repellent to the skin which is covered by clothing.
- Always do a patch test of the insect repellent on your baby/child’s skin. Insect repellents containing DEET can cause skin irritations and insect repellent containing Picaridin has shown to be gentler on the skin.
- Use roll-on insect repellents or creams rather than sprays or aerosols, to ensure your baby/child does not inhale the repellent. If the repellent only comes in a spray, spray it into your hands first and then apply it on your child’s skin
- If you use a spray, ensure you spray outside to avoid inhaling the repellent.
- Avoid applying insect repellent to your baby/toddler’s hands to avoid your child putting their fingers in their mouths and sucking on the repellant. Also, avoid applying insect repellent too close to their eyes and mouth.
- Avoid applying insect repellents containing more than 20% DEET to children
- Always apply sunscreen before applying an insect repellent
- Use unscented cosmetics and toiletries, since mosquitoes are attracted to scents
- Wash your child’s skin with soap and water when they return inside
Brands available in Australia:
Picaridin: Aerogard Odourless low irritant and Protect (containing 19% Picaridin)
DEET: Insect repellents containing 10% DEET or less, are enough to prevent mosquito bites in babies/young children. Brands include Rid Kids and Aeroguard for kids.
In high-risk areas where malaria, Ross river virus, Barmah forest virus and Dengue fever occur, insect repellents containing a higher strength of DEET should be used. Brands include: Rid tropical strength, Aeroguard family protection low irritant ( contain 19% DEET)
There are natural insect repellents that contain citronella oil and eucalyptus oil which do ward off mosquitoes, and come in forms of sprays or wristbands etc. However, they are not as effective as repellents that contain DEET or picaridin. If going into a high risk area, you cannot rely on these natural repellents to protect you and your children.
Insect repellents containing DEET and Picaridin also protect against other insects eg. Sandflies, biting Midges, Ticks and Leeches and the disease they cause eg. Lyme disease
Other ways to repel mosquitoes:
- When taking your baby outdoors ensure they are wearing long, loose, light coloured clothing with close fitting around the wrists and ankles to avoid insects finding their way up a sleeve/trouser.
- spray the pram/stroller with insect repellent
- Mosquito nets can be purchased at outdoor camping stores (containing Permethrin). They can cover a pram/ bassinet/porta cot. Ensure the netting is far enough away from your baby’s face
- It is known that mosquitoes are more active at dawn and dusk, however, it is important if travelling to an area where mosquito-borne viruses are prevalent that some bite during the day too, eg. Dengue mosquitoes (in far north Queensland) peak biting time is during the day, hence it is important to know how long your insect repellent lasts and reapply when necessary.
Be mindful with insect repellent wristbands, as they last for 48 hours before needing to be replaced. Once they have been opened and if you place a wristband on a young child you have to be vigilant that the child does not remove it and place it in their mouth and/or chew on the band.
Please feel free to leave comments on this blog and if there are any questions I am more than happy to answer them. Also, if you tried a remedy that worked well for your children that was, or wasn’t mentioned above, let me know. I hope this information does help.
Disclaimer – The material on this blog is only to be used for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before applying the methods, medicines, techniques or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein. The names of people mentioned in this blog have been changed to protect the real patient’s confidentiality.