Mum groups on social media are full of comments lamenting the apparent increase in bugs in the UAE (despite the rapidly warming weather), posted alongside images of their little ones covered in angry red welts.
While most bites are more annoying than harmful and will get better within a few hours or overnight, there are cases when these become swollen or infected, or lead to a severe allergic reaction, especially among children. Itching the bitten spot often draws blood, which can cause contamination.
Here are some ways for you and your children to remain bite-free.
Keep your space clean
Mosquitoes can breed anywhere, but they are most drawn to logged water and exposed food. “Cleaning your space is the most important step in preventing a mosquito infestation,” says Dr Deepti Chaturvedi, paediatrics specialist at Burjeel Hospital. “This includes everything from dirty containers and dishes with uncovered food or water, to bird feeders and the floor mats of your car.”
Wear repellent and use netting
Gardens and parks, and even potted plants on your balcony are some of the worst offenders. “Flower beds are a hothouse for logged water, and mosquitoes are also attracted to dense shrubbery and damp grass. Teach your children to avoid these areas, whether in your apartment or villa, or in the park,” advises Chaturvedi.
For children, who have more delicate skin, Chaturvedi recommends applying soothing calamine lotion. If you feel that an anti-allergic medicine or cream is required — in case of multiple bites or unnatural redness or bumps that won’t subside — visit a paediatrician for the right prescription.
“The insect repellents sold for adults may be too concentrated for kids and cause unwanted side effects,” she says. “30 per cent Deet is the maximum concentration you should consider for children. Also, avoid spraying or applying these on their hands and faces, as they may lick their hands or put them near the eye area.”
For children, who may be exposed to vegetation, stagnant water and bugs even on school or sports trips, Dr Chaturvedi suggests Permethrin, an insect repellent that’s meant to be sprayed on clothing gear and tents (never on skin). “The spray lasts several washes, so your child will be safe even if he or she is not around you, and will be protected without the need for strong topical creams or sprays.”
Labban says that an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can also work. “If there is a localised redness that is spreading, any pus, pain or fever, then it’s time to consult a doctor,” he adds.
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