Can my baby be harmed by all the mosquito bites she gets?

My baby gets eaten alive by mosquitoes every time she’s outdoors. We were considering going camping but now I’m afraid to take her into the woods. Can such a tiny body be harmed by so many bites?

Question:

Ruling out malaria, arboviral encephalitis and West Nile virus, the harm from mosquito bites is limited to itching and the possibility of infection from scratching.

Scientists are still baffled as to why certain people are mosquito magnets while the people next to them are mosquito repellants. Since your daughter is on the mosquito smorgasbord list, prevention is her best cure.

Prevention begins with avoiding areas known to be heavily inhabited by insects (flowery gardens, stagnant water areas, open food areas, woods!). If she must be exposed, taking the following precautions may reduce the number of bites.

Insect repellants containing DEET offer the best protection, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that products used on infants and children should contain no more than ten percent DEET, because it is absorbed through the skin and is potentially harmful. Look for a repellant that is made for children, and then read the active ingredients label carefully. Lightly spray an appropriate insect repellant on your baby’s clothing and/or apply it to your hands and sparingly rub it on her exposed skin.

Tightly woven, long-sleeved tops and pants offer some barrier protection. Light colors refract heat and may make you less attractive to mosquitoes; dark colors capture heat and thus attract mosquitoes. Some experts suspect that bright colors and flowery prints also attract mosquitoes.

While garlic has been touted as a repellant and bananas as an attractant, both currently fall into the realm of folklore.

Dusk to dawn is the peak time for mosquito attacks, with dusk being the most important time to avoid exposure. Cover outdoor play yards and carriages with mosquito netting in infested areas.

Bites can be treated with calamine lotion (or Caladryl) except around eyes and genitals. Contact a physician before using antihistamines or home remedies. Mosquito bites may appear more red and swollen on the second or third day. If bites look infected or itching is severe, consult your baby’s healthcare provider.

The AAP recommends immediate medical attention if bites result in any of the following:

  • Sudden difficulty in breathing
  • Weakness, collapse or unconsciousness
  • Hives or itching all over the body
  • Extreme swelling near the eyes, lips or genitals that makes it difficult for the child to see, eat or urinate.

 

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