Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mosquitoes vs kids: avoid, repel, treat

In about a month and a half I'm heading to Sweden with the kids for our summer visit. We'll be spending a lot of time at my parents' summer house, which is an awesome place, but... there are mosquitoes.

Sweden is a very mosquito-dense country, just like a lot of places up north are, whether it's in Canada or Sweden. That is why lots of birds migrate north in summer after all.

Right at my parents' place, which is near the brackish Bay of Botnia, it's not so bad (especially on sunny days), but the kids usually get their fair share of mosquito bites, especially if we head into the woods or go near any of the local lakes. When we visited my aunt's and uncle's cabin near a small lake last year, the mosquitoes were so thick outside the car when we arrived that it looked like something out of a horror movie.

There are three main ways to deal with mosquitoes and mosquito bites: avoid them, repel them, and treat the bites.

1. Avoid them
  • Mosquitoes love cloudy days, wind-less days, the woods, lakes, and twilight time. If you're out during those times, protect yourself.
  • Put your kids in long-sleeved shirts and long pants if you're heading into mosquito territory. Put a hat on their heads too. A similar strategy is also good for night-time: mosquitoes love to get you when you're sleeping. I usually try to have the kids in their long-sleeved, long-pants pyjamas in Sweden for this very reason.
  • For babies, use netting and lots of it: on the crib, on the stroller, and get a net to drape over the car seat too. 

    2. Repel them
    There are lots of web-sites that have in-depth information about what kinds of repellents to use for kids, and what kinds you should not use. Three good sites are:

    Some general tips for kids and insect repellent are:
    • Only use products that say they are approved for children.
    • Use products containing DEET  (which is a very effective repellent, but also toxic at hight doses) very sparingly or not at all on kids.
    • Experts usually say that products containing less than 10% DEET can be used on kids. However, use sparingly and do not re-apply too frequently (follow the product directions).
    • Wash off the repellent as soon as it's not needed anymore.
    • Apply repellent to kids' clothes rather than skin to minimize exposure to the chemicals.
    I usually try to avoid the DEET-repellents for my kids, though when we've been in very mosquito-heavy areas (like when the kids go blueberry-picking in the woods in Sweden), I have used it sparingly. Some repellents for kids without DEET are
    For babies, I'd avoid using any repellents at all and go for protective clothing and nets instead. However, there are some repellents that state that they are safe to use on babies, including:

    3. Treat the bites
    Sooner or later someone will get bitten if you're in a place where there are mosquitoes. Which means you have to deal with very itchy bumps.Try to minimize the itching and scratching (though it can feel pretty darn good to scratch those bites, I know that from experience), and use some itch-relief products:

    • Salubrin is the old-school, Swedish treatment for mosquito bites, and the smell still conjures up memories of childhood summers for me.
    Most types of mosquito repellent work on other blood-sucking bugs to (sand fleas, biting flies, etc.), but not on stinging insects like wasps and bees.

    If you're headed to an area where there is malaria, you need to really be aware of how to protect yourself and your kids ahead of time. My post from World Malaria Day has some useful links and information.

    Mosquito image thanks to Wikimedia Commons, Salubrin image thanks to


    1. We hate hate mosquitos. It's our mosquito season here and they are so strong that they seem to survive no matter what we put on against them.

    2. I hate them too. They can really ruin your day (and night) and using a lot of repellent isn't actually pleasant either (though it's better than being eaten alive!). I keep hoping scientists will come up with some kind of "magic bullet" that keeps them off human skin, but I guess no luck so far!


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