Written by SMH Mother-Baby Nurse Leah Brown
It’s almost summer … in Florida. That means it’s not just hot and humid, but it’s buggy too! This fun combination presents a challenge when you need to protect infants from disease-carrying blood-suckers—like mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks—and keep them cool.
Very young children can’t regulate their body heat like older children and adults can, so simply covering them up for bug protection or sun protection can be unsafe on hot days, unless you have the right fabrics. Adding to the challenge: Most common bug repellants contain DEET, an ingredient that should not be used on children younger than 2 months old; similarly, products containing lemon eucalyptus oil shouldn’t be used on kids under 3 years old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
So how can you safely protect an infant this time of year without overheating them? The AAP recommends:
- Always read insect repellent labels, and follow all directions and precautions.
- If your child is too young to use bug spray, cover exposed skin with a light cotton/breathable fabric. Overdressing the baby can put them a risk for overheating in the summertime. Dress your baby in clothes that you would feel comfortable in, if it is extremely hot outside.
- When an infant younger than 2 months old is stroller bound, cover him/her with mosquito netting that has an elastic edge and ensure a tight fit around a stroller. Covering baby with a blanket blocks air flow. Tip: Invest in a clip-on, battery-operated fan for the stroller; the circulating air deters bugs and keeps baby from getting too hot.
- Avoid walks outside during dusk when the bugs are out in large numbers and also avoid extreme sun exposure between 10 am and 2 pm.
- Do not use insect repellent that is 30-percent DEET or more on children.
- Avoid products that contain both insect repellent and sunscreen, because sunscreen generally needs to be reapplied more often than insect repellent.
- Do not apply bug repellents on skin that will be covered by clothing. Apply the repellent to the clothing or exposed skin only. Use just enough to cover exposed skin; using more does not make repellents more effective.
- Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
- Do not spray bug repellent directly on the face; apply with your hands.
- Do not allow young children to apply insect repellents themselves.
- Do not use bug sprays in enclosed areas or near food.
- Reapply insect repellent, if it gets washed off by sweating or getting wet.
- Avoid reapplying repellents on young children, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Once your outdoor adventure is over, be sure to wash any repellent-treated skin with soap and water or bathe the child entirely. If you applied repellent to the child’s clothing, put him/her in a new outfit and launder the sprayed clothing before wearing it again.
- If your child develops a rash or other reaction from an insect repellent, wash the repellent off with soap, and water and contact the child’s pediatrician or call the U.S. poison control center at 800-222-1222 for guidance.
How Do I Know My Child is Overheated?
Check your baby frequently to for signs of overheating: hot skin, agitation and lethargy—or use a thermometer. Your infant’s temperature should NOT be more than 99 degrees.
Keep newborns indoors or in the shade as much as possible during the summer months. Keep your infant cool with cool cloths or a water-spray bottle. Allow breastfed infants to have frequent, short feedings to stay hydrated. Have water available for infants older than 6 months of age and offer sips frequently. If your baby is teething, use a mesh teether with frozen fruit inside. For older kids, remind them to drink water during play; dehydration headaches are miserable.
Infants & Sunscreen Warnings
Avoid applying sunscreen on infants younger than six months. Provide shade with umbrellas or canopies instead. If you can't avoid the sun, test a small area of your baby's skin beforehand with the sunscreen, and then only apply it on small areas. Use a sunscreen with a minimum of 15 sun protection factor (SPF). For more tips on sun safety for kids of all ages, click here.
Worrisome Bite or Burn?
Despite our best efforts, babies and kids will get bug bites or too much sun during summer outings. Usually, these are more annoying than a cause for concern. But if your young one has a bug bite, insect sting or sunburn that you're worried about, talk to healthcare provider. Sarasota Memorial's Urgent Care Centers are open 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. You can get in and out in a hurry using our Save My Spot online checkin tool or app.
Leah Brown, RN, is a nurse in the Mother-Baby Unit at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. As a mother of two and a former childbirth educator, doula and school teacher, she enjoys educating new families and nursing students.