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Summer Safety for You and Your Kids

Mosquito and Tick Bites continued...

Another insect-borne illness, West Nile virus, is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and usually produces mild symptoms in healthy people. But the illness can be serious for older people and those with compromised immune systems. In 2010, there were almost a thousand cases of West Nile virus in humans reported to the CDC. A small number of those infected with West Nile virus develop severe illness. The symptoms are flu-like and can include fever, headache, body aches, and skin rash.

Rarer but also dangerous diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and equine encephalitis can also be transmitted by ticks or mosquitoes respectively.

Mosquito, tick bite prevention and treatment

There are no vaccines for West Nile virus or Lyme disease. If you're spending time in tall grass or woody areas, use insect repellent with DEET to ward off mosquitoes and ticks. Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months. Insect repellent used on children should contain no more than 30% DEET. Follow directions carefully.

Check yourself and your children for ticks before bedtime. If you find a tick, remove it by grasping it as close to the skin as possible with tweezers and pulling gently but firmly. Early removal is important because a tick generally has to be on the skin for 36 hours or more to transmit Lyme disease. The CDC recommends cleansing the area of the tick bite with antiseptic. You don't have to save the tick to show it to the doctor. If you really want to have the tick tested, you could check with the local health department, but not all of them offer tick testing.

Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Benadryl or Claritin, can bring itch relief. Read dosing directions carefully, and for children under age 6, check with a doctor. Hydrocortisone cream on the affected area also may help, especially with children. It’s also a good idea to keep children’s fingernails short and encourage them to rub, not scratch, itchy skin. Scratching can lead to broken skin followed by a bacterial infection.

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