Dear Doc | Protecting young babies from dengue
Q Dear Doc, I need your help. I have a young baby, and after reading all the dengue news recently, I want to know how best to protect my baby from the mosquitoes. I prefer to use natural things because she’s so young. What do you recommend?
A Indeed! With the increased number of dengue cases, it is very important to not only protect yourself from mosquito bites, but especially children and babies. It is a common concern of parents, how best to do this, as babies are so delicate.
When a mosquito nags or lands on you, you can swat it, spray it, or move away from them to save yourself from being bitten, but your baby needs the help of another person to keep from being bitten.
Here are a few suggestions on how to protect your baby from mosquito bites, what works, and what is safe.
For babies younger than two months:
The American Academy of Pediatrics is clear in stating that mosquito repellents – even the DEET-free ones – are not safe for newborns. The best way to keep your baby from getting bitten is by avoiding mosquitoes.
1) Stay inside. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn (sunrise) and dusk (sunset). Keep your baby indoors during those hours to lower her risk of being bitten.
2) Protect your house.
• Put screens at windows and doors, where possible, to keep mosquitoes from getting inside.
• Drain standing water. Look around your house for breeding sites, like flower pots and vases. Drill holes in any tyres to keep water from collecting.
• If you have a pet, change their water bowl regularly.
• Put standing, or overhead fans in your baby’s room and throughout your home. Fans make it difficult for mosquitoes to navigate through the air.
• Burn a citronella candle. There is evidence that the oil from citronella can keep mosquitoes and other bugs at bay.
3) Cover up with clothes. Dress your baby in such a manner that mosquitoes cannot have any access to her skin. Moderately loose-fitting, light-coloured fabrics can prevent bugs from biting through the clothing. For example, loose-fitting long sleeves and long pants, with socks, and a hat. Skip the bright, flowery prints, though, mosquitoes and other insects are attracted to those.
4) Protect with a net. Use a fitted net over carriers and strollers when you take your baby outdoors, as well as cribs and playpens while indoors. Make sure the netting has small enough holes to prevent mosquitoes from getting through.
5) Skip the scents. Mosquitoes are attracted to the scents in many products such as perfumes, hairsprays, and scented soaps. Use fragrance-free products on your baby as well as yourself when you’re with your baby, so you will be less attractive to insects.
6) Avoid mosquito areas. Flower gardens, piles of dead leaves, and bushes are all popular places for mosquitoes to hang out, so avoid them.
Babies Over Two Months
Once your baby is a little older, you can add mosquito repellent sprays and lotions to your prevention routine.
According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), mosquito repellent is the best way to protect your baby from mosquito bites once you use it correctly.
Repellents will also protect from other biting insects, but do not work for wasps or bees.
Research says repellents with DEET, Picaridin or I5353 as active ingredients work the longest.
When you use products containing DEET, choose ones with less than 30%; also, the less time your baby will be outside, the lower the concentration of DEET you should use. For example, a 10% DEET concentration will protect your baby for about two hours, while a 24% product can give your child about five hours of protection. Many experts suggest sticking with a 10% concentration for safety.
If you are concerned about DEET, consider trying a repellent with picaridin on your baby.
The CDC recommended that products containing picaridin are as safe as those with DEET. Picaridin is a synthetic compound derived from the plant Piper, which is the same plant that produces table pepper. You may use the same recommendations as with DEET.
Picaridin comes in concentrations ranging from 7% to 20%. Concentrations between 5% and 10% offer one to two hours of protection, while those at 20% offer four to five hours of protection.
Apply these repellants sparingly to your baby, being sure to cover all exposed skin, or skin under clothing through which a mosquito can pierce. Avoid areas close to the eyes and mouth. Avoid putting it on any parts of your baby’s hands that may come in contact with her mouth or eyes.
If you are concerned about these chemical repellants, you can consider natural repellents, made with plant essential oils such as citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, and soybean. The CDC found some of these products to be as effective as DEET at repelling mosquitoes.
Many choose to use these natural products to avoid using harsh chemicals on baby’s delicate skin; however, they, too, can irritate your baby’s skin, so do a test trial before applying entirely.
Be sure to read product labelling to determine age restrictions, as some of these products are not suitable for babies and children under the age of three.
They also aren’t as long-lasting as chemical repellent, though, so you will need to reapply natural repellents every one and a half to two hours to ensure maximum protection from mosquitoes.
If for some reason all these methods fail, and you notice bites on your baby, and she begins having fever and poor feeding, seek medical attention as soon as possible.