In the Philippines, the rainy season brings not only downpour but life-threatening mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue and Japanese encephalitis. Apart from vaccines, the best way to protect our family is through preventive measures like the 4s campaignby the Department of Health. It includes cleaning up stagnant water since mosquitos favor it as a breeding ground. Another good layer of protection: insect repellents.
From the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and healthcare groups, here’s a Pinoy parent's quick guide on choosing, applying and using mosquito lotions and sprays: Is mosquito repellent safe for babies and tots? “Yes. Most products can be used on children,” said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Your child, however, should be at least 2 months old as per the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
There are exceptions. Mosquito repellents that have lemon eucalyptus oil should not be used on children 3 years old and below, and lotions to be applied on children should not contain more than 30 percent DEET, the active ingredient in many mosquito repellents, according to the CDC and the AAP. (More about how to choose the best product for your child below.)
I'm pregnant/breastfeeding. Can I apply mosquito repellents? Yes. As per CDC recommendations, it is “safe for women at any stage of pregnancy (and nursing moms) to use insect repellents containing DEET,” reported The Atlantic. There are no necessary additional precautions to take.
There are so many mosquito repellents. Which one should I buy? Products with DEET, picaridin, IR 3535, and lemon eucalyptus oil are proven safe and effective mosquito repellents. Not sure which ingredient your repellent has? To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of popular mosquito repellent products and their corresponding active ingredients here.
Also, make sure you’re using only FDA-approved mosquito repellents. Do this by typing in the product brand name at the search tab found at the upper right corner of the FDA website (it takes less than a minute to find a product).
A quick caution on mosquito patches: skin patches that promise to repel mosquitoes are not at all effective, found a study from the New Mexico State University and reported by the NPR.
Can my child apply insect repellent on his own? It’s not advisable. Remember, mosquito repellents are safe, but they do contain active ingredients and can result in adverse reaction when ingested and mishandled.
Place a bit of product on your hands first, then apply the lotion where your child’s skin is exposed. Don’t apply the product on your child’s hands, so you don't risk getting the cream in your child’s eyes and mouth, says the FDA. How much should I apply for my child? Use the product sparingly. Apply the lotion on your child’s exposed skin only or areas that are not covered by clothing. “Mosquito repellent lotions are not intended to be moisturizing and should not be applied excessively on all parts of the body,” says the FDA. Using more of it doesn’t make it more effective, the AAP adds.
The most advisable thing to do is to read the label carefully and follow instructions especially when it comes to how much of the product to use. The amount can differ per product.
Should I really re-apply? Yes. The label will say how long the protection time of the lotion will last. Apply according to instructions.
Are there areas where I shouldn’t apply the repellent? Don’t apply the lotion near your child’s eyes, mouth and on any open wounds and areas where the skin is irritated. Also, don’t spray the product directly on his face.
If you’re using a new mosquito repellent for the first time, do a skin test first to avoid major allergic reactions. “Skin tests are done by applying a small amount of the product on a small area of skin (i.e., the inner forearm or the skin behind the ears) and observing for any skin reaction,” said the FDA.
Immediately stop using the product if you notice itching, swelling or rashes. Then, wash away the lotion with soap and water, and consult your child’s doctor if the symptoms do not go away.
What happens if I use expired insect repellent? “Expiration dates are there to inform the consumers of the estimated time when the product can no longer deliver its claimed efficacy, safety, and quality,” said the FDA. So when you use expired products, it won't necessarily cause an adverse reaction, but you’re not guaranteed the protection the repellent promises.