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Beat the bite: Five child-friendly ways to prevent exposure to mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are a pesky problem every summer and even into the fall season. The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation staff recently confirmed an increase in the mosquito population. An unusually high number of mosquitoes may be due to above average spring rains and fewer people in public spaces during the pandemic, with more standing water left undisturbed as a breeding ground.

For most people, mosquitoes are an itchy annoyance, but illnesses like West Nile virus and Zika are also possible, with isolated cases reported in Oklahoma.

While old wives’ tales abound with varying methods to keep mosquitoes away, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends some proven strategies.

Put these ideas into practice to ward off mosquitoes:

Mosquito-proof your home or child care center: Use screens on doors and windows. Empty trash cans, flowerpots, birdbaths, planters, toys, buckets and other sources of standing water where mosquitoes may lay eggs. Change pets’ water daily and clean their bowls with soap and water at least once each week. Turn on air conditioning when possible.

Eliminate other sources of exposure: Cover baby cribs and strollers with mosquito netting if necessary. Avoid attracting mosquitoes by not using perfumes or scented lotions when going out.

Consider planting specialty herbs and flowers: Talk with a gardening specialist about mosquito-repelling plants like rosemary, basil, lavender or marigolds, which are more cost-effective than outdoor fixtures like citronella candles and torches. Zap systems or traps may be needed if you own a pool. Keep all chemicals and devices out of children’s reach.

Cover up: Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants may seem uncomfortable in summer heat but less exposed skin means fewer tissue surfaces mosquitoes can land on to bite. Although they can still penetrate most cloth, treated clothing and certain fabrics sold as anti-mosquito can be helpful if you’re planning outdoor activities. Spraying clothing with repellent is also recommended.

Repellents: The effectiveness of natural repellants like lemon balm or other essential oils has not been tested. Never use repellent on an infant younger than 2 months of age. Follow all package instructions, especially when using chemical products with children. Instead of aiming the repellent bottle’s nozzle directly at a child’s skin, spray the product onto your hands and apply by transferring it to him or her. Avoid rubbing repellent into children’s eyes, around their mouths or into open sores, cuts, scrapes or bug bites they may already have.

For best results, use a federally-regulated repellent with one of the following components:

  • DEET

  • Picaridin

  • IR3535

  • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)

  • 2-undecanone

See the CDC’s full list of travel advisories addressing mosquito-borne illnesses and more prevention tips here.


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