Mosquito Bites and Children
The Itch is Back!
A few weeks ago I had a dilemma. It was the most beautiful day and I wanted to take my four children outside to play in the backyard. I applied the proper sun block suitable for children under five. All wore their sunglasses and toted safe, appropriate toys for their specific age group. The walkers (my oldest three) are 2, 3 and 4, respectively. The youngest just bounces in his chair, but he was with us too. So here was the dilemma. The walkers have all suffered severe, but not life threatening reactions to mosquito bites in the past. I mean almost temporarily disfiguring reactions that go beyond those annoying little pink welts. I originally feared West Nile Virus, but the doctor ruled that out and said it was an exaggerated reaction. Within five days of the bite, each child's face swelled up like a basketball. In each instance it took four weeks for the swelling to go away, but the eye area remained red and wrinkly and took nearly six months to heal. I wasn't that concerned about the appearance. What made my heart ache was hearing my children tell my husband and me that out kisses hurt their heads six weeks after the bites.I really did not want my family to relive this nightmare.
What I Have Learned
I was shocked. Our pediatrician saw each of the children and warned us each time a bite appears close to the eyes and forehead it has a greater chance of spreading disease to the brain. If the mosquito is carrying a virus, it has a straight shot in younger children due to their immature immune systems. I grew up in a rural area and played outdoors until well after dusk. Although my mother doused me with Off! I received hundreds of bites, but they never grew to more than a dime sized bump.
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Don't Get Bit!
I realize I may seem over protective, but with a four month old I have to take every precaution necessary. I thought my pediatrician was being cavalier or just plain sarcastic when he said, "Just don't get bit." Sure, tell that to my children who want to roll down the hill in our backyard. I never had to face such restrictions and I didn't want my children to be deprived of outside play.However, he was right. I realized that prevention was the only way to avoid the twenty-some doctor's office visits, gallons of antihistamine and hours of itching and pain my children suffered in summers past.
My husband and I put together an action plan. These concepts are not new, but they scream common sense.
- Keep children inside early morning and early evening when the mosquitoes come out to munch. We just douse them in extra sunscreen and wear our sun hats.
- Dress in shoes and socks when playing in grassy areas that may be wet.
- If the grass is wet with dew or rain, stay off the grass. We play up on our deck with chalk, balls, bubbles or we dance.
- Drain the kiddie pool each night. We also moved ours up on our deck.
- My favorite: Ask neighbors who have items on their property that accumulate water to eliminate them or drain the water daily. After All, West Nile Virus also affects adults and the elderly.
- Use the strongest insecticide you can for you children's age. Some people refuse to use the ones containing DEET. I was one of those parents until I read that DEET is one of the most studied mosquito repellents and is considered very safe. I use one that contains a 10% solution. Note: It is recommended that the child bathe or shower after playing outdoors. Ours go straight into the tub anyway after playing outside.
The video below gives practical advise on treating the itch and discomfort of mosquito bites.