“You look good enough to eat!” That must be what the mosquitoes are thinking when you step outside on a warm day. Pass the bug spray!
Mosquitoes love babies and young children too, unfortunately.
And while you may feel like you only have yourself to blame if you forget to spray yourself with the insect repellant before heading outdoors, your kids depend on you to protect them against insect bites.
But this isn’t about blame — it’s about empowering you with information. Here’s what you need to know about identifying and treating mosquito bites, plus hopefully preventing your baby from being targeted by hungry mosquitoes in the first place.
Your baby is fretful, maybe even clutching at their skin. You peer down at the spot and notice a small, puffy bump. Yes, a mosquito has bitten your child.
Here’s the general symptom time line, which can help with bite identification:
- Typically, a small bump usually appears pretty quickly after the mosquito bite occurs.
- It may begin turning pink or red shortly after, and a day or so later, it may be darker in color and harder.
- And of course, it will start to itch as your baby’s body reacts to the proteins in the mosquito’s saliva.
This may entail some more severe swelling of the affected area and maybe even some bruising or blistering. In those more serious cases, baby might also experience hives, swollen lymph nodes, or a low-grade fever.
A mosquito bite can also look very similar to some other kinds of insect bites. Unless you happen to see the offending critter, you might not know for certain if the raised or red bump is the result of a mosquito’s work or if another insect did the deed.
That could include fleas or chiggers, which also cause intensely itchy bites. However, you can often tell a chigger bite from the tiny red dot in the center of the bump, which might look like a welt, a blister, or a pimple.
Bedbug bites are also red and itchy, though they tend to be grouped in clusters or lines, which can give them away.
Keep in mind that a mosquito bite is unlikely to be painful. A bite that’s painful might be the result of a sting, perhaps from a bee or wasp. Fire ants are notorious for inflicting pain, and deerfly and horsefly bites can also cause painful bumps to swell on the skin.
The itch is really the issue when it comes to mosquito bites. Most people just have to put up with a few days of uncomfortable and annoying itching.
But that’s a challenge with babies and young children. They’ll want to scratch those itchy bites.
Meanwhile, you’ll be trying your best to keep them from scratching, so they don’t accidentally scratch open the bite and potentially introduce infection.
But your baby won’t understand why you don’t want them to scratch.
So, there are a few thigs you can do. Before you get started, give your child a hug and tell them it’s going to be OK. Clean the affected area with gentle soap and warm water and pat it dry.
Then, you can pick one of these strategies and see if it helps:
- Apply a cold, damp compress to your child’s bite.
- Apply a 1 percent hydrocortisone cream to the bite. This cream, which contains a steroid, should temporarily reduce or even alleviate the itching. Apply it to your child’s skin three times per day until the bite heals or stops itching.
- Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the bite several times a day.
One caveat: You don’t want baby’s fingers getting coated in the steroid cream, because we all know where those fingers will wind up — in your baby’s mouth. You may have to apply the cream or the paste, then cover the area with clothing so your little one can’t get to it.
You might be tempted to give your baby a dose of an antihistamine to cut down on the itching but doctors and the
At what point should you start worrying that it’s not just a garden-variety mosquito bite?
First, remember what’s considered “normal” or “typical”: an itch that lasts for several days. The affected area might even remain swollen for as long as a week.
But if baby starts developing some other symptoms, it might be time to call the doctor and check.
Although it may be hard — if not impossible — to assess your baby for symptoms like a headache or joint pain, you can watch out for fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and a rash. These symptoms are among symptoms of mosquito-borne diseases.
You might also check in with your pediatrician if you think the bite has gotten infected. Over-the-counter topical antibiotic ointments like Neosporin are generally not recommended for use in children under age 2, but you can discuss the issue with your child’s doctor.
You have several options for preventing those pesky blood-sucking mosquitoes from snacking on your child and making them feel itchy. You might need to employ a combination of strategies for maximum effectiveness.
When you’re taking your little one outside, dress them in clothes that cover their skin as much as possible. A long-sleeved shirt and pants can reduce the exposed skin that mosquitoes can feast upon.
Apply insect repellent
It’s understandable if you’re a little nervous about hosing your little one down in strongly scented insect repellent. But don’t worry: You can apply insect repellent that contains DEET or picaridin to your baby to ward off the mosquitoes.
Yes, a product with DEET is OK to use on babies over 2 months of age, but choose a version that doesn’t contain more than 30 percent DEET. Avoid products that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-dio (PMD), though, per the CDC’s recommendations.
Do be mindful when applying insect repellent to baby so that you don’t get any into their mouth, nose, or eyes. It’s best to spray the repellent into your hands, then apply it to your child’s face. And when you come inside, use soap and water to wash your baby’s skin and remove the repellent.
Use mosquito netting
Headed out for a stroll with the baby? Drape the stroller in mosquito netting to keep the bugs out.
Keep the windows closed
Is there anything worse than waking up in the morning to find that a mosquito spent the night in your bedroom and snacked on you?
Make sure there are screens on any windows in your little one’s room. Or, if you have an air conditioner, consider using it and leaving the windows closed on warm nights to keep the mosquitoes out.
Getting a few mosquito bites is almost to be expected if you spend any time outside in the summer, but it’s definitely worth it to try to prevent as many as possible.
For one thing, your baby will be more comfortable (and less fussy, hopefully) without any itchy bites to contend with.
And for another, you won’t have to worry about possible infections or mosquito-borne illnesses, even though most people don’t get seriously ill after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
If your baby does get bitten despite your best efforts, don’t panic. Just try to address the itch and watch out for any signs of complications.