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June 21, 2007

For Your Well-being: Bugs, bites and burns: Avoiding summer snags

With Memorial Day behind us and the kids just about out of school, it seems like a good time to review some basic summer safety.

As their children head off to camp, many parents come to me asking about protection against mosquitoes and other biting insects. Keeping kids covered with long pants and long-sleevde shirts when they are most at risk, such as during the twilight hours, is effective. If an insect repellant is used, a product that contains DEET (diethyltoluamide) is recommended. It should not be used on infants less than 2 months of age and should not be used in concentrations greater than 30 percent. Keep away from the mouth, hands and eyes to avoid internal ingestion. It can be used on skin and clothing and need only be applied once a day. Remove it at night in the bath or shower.

For folks who are looking for a more natural solution, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found soybean oil-based products and citronella oil-based products to be as effective as DEET, but not as long-lasting. The soybean product studied, Bite Blocker for Kids, offered protection for an average of 1 hour of protection, while the citronella product, Avon's Skin-so-Soft Moisturizing Suncare, lasted only 20 minutes. DEET lasts an average of four hours.

If your child tends to develop particularly large reactions to mosquito bites, a prophylactic dose of an antihistamine such as Benadryl can be used when exposure is unavoidable.

Early summer is prime tick season and with ticks come concerns about Lyme disease. The bacteria that cause Lyme live in the gut of deer ticks, which are quite tiny in comparison to dog ticks. In order for ticks to transmit disease they must be attached to the skin for at least 36 to 72 hours, so checking children each night can go a long way toward disease prevention.

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