Healthy child

Don't let summer bugs drive kids inside :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Susan Dodge

The last few weeks of summer find most kids outside playing, and they are often covered in bug bites by the time the day is over.

Parents need to be cautious about trying to prevent mosquito bites, even though the risk of West Nile is low in children, says Dr. Joel Schwab, a pediatrician with the University of Chicago Hospitals.

"The most important thing is to be preventative to bring down the risk of bites," Schwab says.

"Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, dark clothes and keep kids out from under bushes, where mosquitoes like to hang out," he says. "Stay inside at times when mosquitoes are at their worst, at dawn and dusk, and use insect repellent with DEET."

But how do you choose the right bug prevention sprays from those on store shelves?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that insect repellents containing 10 to 30 percent concentrations of DEET are safe for children 2 months and older. DEET is not recommended for children under 2 months old.

Products with 10 percent DEET are effective for about two hours, while products with 30 percent provide about five hours of protection. Use the lowest concentration possible based on the amount of time your child will spend outdoors. Parents should not use products containing both sunscreen and DEET. Sunscreens, to be effective, should be repeatedly applied. But reapplying DEET can increase the potential toxic effects. It should be applied only once a day.

When using DEET on kids, parents should apply it sparingly and avoid getting it on a child's hands or near his mouth, eyes, cuts or irritated skin. When the child comes back inside, wash with soap and water the DEET-covered skin. Wash clothing that has been sprayed with DEET.

The most effective insect repellents are Off! Deep-Woods, with a DEET concentration of nearly 24 percent, and Sawyer Controlled Release, with 20 percent DEET, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. When kids are bitten by mosquitoes, parents can apply calamine lotion or a baking soda paste made with water to reduce itching.

Bees, wasps, spiders Mosquitoes are not the only bugs out there. Parents should also teach curious kids not to swat or hit bees, wasps or their hives and nests.

If a child is stung by a bee or wasp, try to get the stinger out, since it contains venom. Parents should wash the sting area with soap and water and give Benadryl orally if the area begins to swell. A pain reliever, such as Tylenol or Motrin, can help ease the irritation. Baking soda diluted with water can help neutralize the venom and relieve pain.

Life-threatening allergic reactions to a bee or wasp sting are rare, but parents should be on the alert for kids who have trouble breathing, swallowing or speaking or those who seem weak or faint after a sting. Any of those signs require a call to 911 or a trip to the emergency room, Schwab says.

Most spider bites cause swelling at the bite site and can be treated by giving a child a pain reliever, oral Benadryl and elevating the area, if possible. Parents should contact a pediatrician if swelling does not subside after a couple of days, or if a child is dizzy, weak or suffers abdominal cramps after a spider bite.

Ticks Don't forget the bugs that can get under your skin. Kids hiking or vacationing in wooded areas should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into their socks to help prevent tick bites, which can cause Lyme disease. At the end of the day, parents should check their children for ticks and have them take a shower to remove any they see. If parents can't remove a tick, they should contact a pediatrician.

Back-to-school physicals Illinois law requires kids entering preschool, kindergarten and fifth grade to have physicals before starting school.

Kids entering preschool must have a physical form filled out that requires the following immunizations: DPT or DtaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis); polio; hepatitis B; HIB (hemophilus influenza); MMR (measles, mumps, rubella). Physicals must include blood pressure, height and weight. (For more information on the area pertussis outbreak, see story on page 15.)

Children going to kindergarten must show proof of DPT or DtaP, polio, MMR and measles immunizations. A tuberculosis skin test is recommended by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Physicals must include blood pressure, height and weight.

Kids going into fifth grade must show proof that the hepatitis B immunization is complete. Physicals must include blood pressure, height and weight.

Students who want to participate in sports and cheerleading are required to have sports physicals before trying out for the activity each school year in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.



Susan Dodge is Ben's mother and a writer living in northwest Indiana.

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