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Avoiding Bug Bites And Everything That Comes With Them

Bugs are essential. There are millions of species out there, helping to keep our planet in balance. They pollinate our food and recycle the world’s nutrients. But some of our many-legged co-inhabitants have other, less appealing roles to play as the bearers of itchy bites and unpleasant illnesses.

Mosquitos and ticks are the two most common culprits. Thankfully, the mosquitos of Westchester rarely carry diseases like in other parts of the world. There have been very rare reports in New York State of viruses such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis after mosquito exposure. However, it is unlikely you will have to deal with anything more than the unpleasantness of an itchy bite.

Ticks, on the other hand, frequently carry Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is transmitted by the deer tick, an insect about the size of a sesame seed. A deer tick will bite a host (that’s us!) and remain attached for up to several days.

It takes 36 to 48 hours for a deer tick to transmit Lyme Disease to a person. Seven to 14 days later, most, but not all hosts will develop the classic “bull’s eye” rash. Common symptoms of Lyme disease also include fatigue, fever, joint pain, and headache. Much less common is inflammation of the nerves in the face, heart or brain. If you think you or your child may have been bitten by a tick or are displaying symptoms of Lyme disease, please speak with your doctor.

Prevention is the key to making summers more fun!

Mosquitos lay eggs in standing water, and the larvae can survive in as little water as in an upturned bottle cap. You can decrease the mosquito population around your home by eliminating all sources of standing water. Adult mosquitos tend to like cool, damp places from which to fly out in the morning and evening to find a meal.

Ticks neither fly nor jump and love to latch on to you as you pass by their preferred vantage points—tall grasses and brush. Children should wear hats, long sleeves, pants, and socks to protect against ticks when walking in the woods, high grasses, or bushes. The same can be done when and where mosquitos are more active.

Remember to:

  • check your child’s hair and skin for ticks at the end of the day
  • avoid scented soap, perfumes, or hair spray to decrease how attractive you are to mosquitos
  • Use insect repellent

The American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers of Disease Control both recommend the use of an insect repellent that contains 10-30% DEET for children older than two months of age. DEET-containing insect repellent can be applied to clothing and directly to exposed skin. When applying to your child, avoid contact with the face, eyes, and hands. DEET should not be used on children younger than two months. You can protect your infant while outside by using a bug net over their stroller.

Dr. Hengel is a pediatric hospitalist at Phelps Hospital, Northwell Health.

For more information on summer safety and pediatric services at Phelps, please call (914) 366-3000.