Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to avoid and treat insect bites/stings on hiking kids

Treat insect bites with an anti-itch cream and don't scratch.

Rub repellent
rather than spray
it on children

The dangers of bug bites and stings range from just a minor annoyance to life-threatening diseases. In addition, once bitten, children tend to scratch the spot, resulting in a higher rate of infection than in adults.

You can avoid insects first and foremost by staying out of areas where they breed, such as swamps and bodies of still water. In mountainous areas, insect season usually occurs about two weeks after snow melts, so avoid hiking at that time.

Don't attract bugs
Remember that what attracts bugs are scents, so skip the perfume, aftershave, lotions and hairspray when hiking. Scented disposable diapers also can attract bugs.

Mosquito netting and insect-proof head nettings are effective at warding off bugs, but if you have to hike through areas necessitating that level of protection, it’s probably not a great place to take kids.

Insect repellent also works – and is recommended – though there is much to consider before putting it on.

First, don’t swab one- or two-month-old infants with any kind of insect repellent. For all other children, avoid those repellents containing DEET or picaridin and instead choose a product made with oil of lemon eucalyptus, which works just as well but doesn’t carry any potential side effects.

Cover with adhesive bandage
Test whatever repellents you purchase before heading into the wilds (especially if you do buy a repellent containing low concentrations of DEET and picaridin, which reportedly are safe). You don’t want your child to have an allergic reaction in the woods with a long walk out and then a long drive to an emergency room.

When putting repellent on children, don’t spray directly onto their face as it likely will get into their eyes, mouth and nostrils. Instead, spray on your hands and apply it. Do not place repellent on eyes, eyelids, lips, mouths, hands, cuts or wounds, and use it sparingly around the ears. With young children through early elementary school, you should apply it yourself. If a child develops a rash or has an allergic reaction to the repellent, wash it off immediately and get medical attention.

To treat any bug bite, clean the site with soap and water and apply an anti-itch cream, hydrocortisone, or Neosporin with Lydocain. Encourage kids not to itch the bite. On young children, cover the bite or sting with an adhesive bandage so they don’t scratch it open.

Whether bit or not, when you get home, wash off with soap and water areas of the body where repellent was applied. Also launder any clothes that came into contact with repellent.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.