Best Mosquito Repellents To Protect Kids From West Nile Virus; How To Use Them
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – This week, health officials reported a fourth Utahn has contracted West Nile Virus this year, and one person has died.
Infected mosquitoes have been found across the state. Summer may be nearly over, but that doesn’t mean kids should stop using repellents when they’re outside.
Dallin Peterson, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, says we could still be months away from the end of the mosquito season.
Peterson studies diseases, especially those spread by bugs. For West Nile Virus, he said, the only vaccine that’s available is strictly for horses.
“There is not a vaccine for humans,” Peterson explained. “There is no treatment. So really, if someone is infected, you are just treating the symptoms.”
There is, however, prevention in the form of insect repellents.
Peterson said the most effective ones use either DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
But, are those repellents kid safe?
Dr. Anne Blashcke, a pediatrician with the University of Utah’s Pediatric Infectious Diseases Division, said repellents with up to 30% DEET are safe for children.
The overuse of DEET has been linked to seizures, but an EPA review found that likelihood is only around 1 in 100 million users.
“Parents should be cautious but parents should know that chemicals such as DEET, in particular, have been extensively studied and have been shown safe to use for kids over two months in age,” said Dr. Blashcke.
She warned the directions must be followed. Parents should use the recommended dose and apply it only to exposed skin.
“The way to do it is for the adult to apply it to their (own) hands and rub a little bit on the (child’s) face, always avoiding the mouth area and the eyes.” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends no child less than 10 years old should apply their repellent if it contains DEET.
“DEET comes in a number of concentrations,” Dr. Blashcke said as she explained that a lower concentration of DEET is no less effective in warding off mosquitos. A higher concentration only means it’ll last longer.
“From 10 percent to 30 percent, it’s really the concentration of DEET in the product you’re using that dictates how long that it will last and protect your child from insects.”
Picaridin can cause skin and eye irritation, but experts generally consider it safe. Same for oil of lemon eucalyptus, but the CDC cautions it has yet to be tested on kids under three.
Whatever repellent you choose, wash it off when your kids go back inside.
“Have the children wash their hands with soap and water,” said Dr. Blashcke. “Wash their skin that’s been exposed to the repellent. And, change their clothes if there is repellent on them and wash those clothes.”
Kids are very unlikely to contract West Nile Virus while they’re outside for recess. Peterson said the particular mosquitos that carry WNV are typically active at dawn and at dusk, not mid-day.
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