Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


Healthy Summer: Mosquito Bite Rescue

for you and your kids

how to stop the itch

Summer’s here! The perfect season for evening barbecues with friends, cocktails in your backyard at dusk, long weekends at the cottage.

Slapping at insects yet?

Yes, we all love summer, but nobody likes the mosquito bites that accompany the season.

Here’s a little help. First with prevention, and then with treatment of those inevitable nibbles.

How To Prevent Bites

First, remember that brush and wooded areas are popular hangout spots for mosquitoes, so concentrate your preventive efforts when you're heading into the woods. Also, mosquitoes have their favourite times of day: dusk and dawn.

Wear long sleeves and long pants whenever possible (and socks! Ankle bites, ugh). Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so you can reduce the mosquito load around your home by draining standing water in abandoned kids' toys, garbage lids, and the like.

Need to do more? You're in the market for insect repellent. There's a large array available, and they are not created the same. To start, DEET is the most effective insect repellent available.

In areas where mosquito bites can come with a side order of lethal illness (eg. malaria, Dengue fever) we always recommend DEET containing repellent. But there are issues with the toxicity of DEET when used in very high doses, so it needs to be used with caution. If we're talking about preventing life-threatening illness, there's no question, DEET (applied appropriately) comes out on top. Here in North America, we don’t have so much to fear about mosquito bites, so DEET is a little more optional.

In the non-DEET department there are many other available insect repellents, often containing botanical oils with demonstrated insect repelling properties (soybean oil, citronella, oil of lemon eucalyptus). Not as effective as DEET, to be sure, but much better than nothing.

Now, what if you’re going to be out in the sun AND around mosquitoes? Sometimes you can find repellent-containing sunscreen, but if not, this is the recommendation: apply sunscreen first, then insect repellent.

How To Treat Bites

Let's say those pesky mosquitoes found chinks in your protective plan, and you or your kids got bitten. What's the best way to relieve that itch?

  • Cool cloths and ice packs
  • Cooling gels and lotions, like calamine or aloe
  • Benadryl or other oral antihistamines
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Over the counter topical anesthetics like Sarna-P
  • Avoid scratching (it makes things worse, increases inflammation, and increases risk of infection)

Also, if your kids' itchiness this summer is due to another seasonal irritant, poison ivy, read this. Or maybe it's allergies. In that case, read this.

Now get out there and enjoy the great outdoors!

Your turn: got tried-and-true home remedies for bite relief? Share them below!

*image courtesy wikimedia commons