Protecting Your Children from Bug Bites this Summer

Minnesota summers are notoriously short, so ensuring our little ones get maximum time and enjoyment outside is important!  But, with the warmer weather come pests which can make for an unpleasant outdoor experience.

We spend lots of time outdoors at Sonnet, including nature exploration, walks and playground activity.  Send your child to school with a bug repellent of your choice, clearly marked with your child’s first and last name, and we will apply it before outdoor activity time!

Here are some tips on how to protect your child from three common summer pests.

Black Flies (Buffalo Gnats)

Most active in the spring, but present through the summer, black flies are pests that do not carry disease, but can leave behind wounds, usually along the hairline and behind the ears of its victims.  They will also bite around the feet, ankles, and on the arms. 

Black flies travel up to 10 miles from their hatching site (usually in rapidly flowing water), so unfortunately, yard treatment is only a temporary help.

Black flies are attracted to the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and animals, as well as to perspiration, fragrances (including those in shampoo, condition, and body lotion) and dark, moving objects.  They are most active just after sunrise and before sunset.

kids hiking though field

Prevention methods include wearing long sleeve shirts, pants and a hat with netting; wearing white or brightly colored clothing; avoidance of fragranced shampoos, conditioners, soaps and lotions; using outdoor fans where your children play; encouraging outdoor activity in open areas of your lawn instead of alongside shrubbery, landscaping or trees.  Unfortunately, studies on DEET and other repellents have not been shown to provide consistent relief.

However, we did some research on what local Minnesota moms swear by, and the following deterrents were consistent winners: pure vanilla extract (dabbed along the hair line), Bug Soother Spray, Buggins Natural Insect Repellent (Vanilla Mint & Rose) and Bugg Insect Repellent.



children learning about the outdoors at preschool

When outdoors, apply a repellent with DEET every 3 hours.  (Alternates include oil of lemon eucalyptus oil.)  Always perform tick checks after outdoors time, paying attention to crevices such as the underarm, behind the knees, scalp, behind ears, waistline, and back.  Shower after being outdoors.  If hiking or playing in unmanicured areas, it is best to wear long sleeve shirts and pants, with pants tucked into socks.  Have your little ones wear shoes rather than sandals.

If your child has a tick, finding and removing them within 24 hours dramatically reduces the possibility of Lyme disease.  Remove the ticks with a tweezer, clamping on as close to the head of the tick as possible.

As always, follow the recommendations of your pediatrician and label instructions when it comes to using repellents, taking into consideration recommended age of use.

What to do about the itch?

A bug-bite free summer is unlikely, despite prevention tips, so what do you do about the itch?

Pediatricians recommended treatment for itch and swelling include:

  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Calamine lotion
  • Baking soda paste
  • Ice
  • Firm, sharp direct pressure on the bite for 10 seconds
  • Allergy medicine (Benadryl, Zyrtec, etc) or cream
  • Other recommendations from Minnesota moms include: lavender oil, Murphy’s bite relief soothing balm and the “Bite Thing” suction tool.

Don’t let the bugs keep you and your child from soaking up the Vitamin C and physical activity this summer! 

Note: we do not endorse or recommend the preceding products but are sharing these as a resource for you and your family; always do your own research prior to purchasing a product; always consult your pediatrician before using a product on your child.  Follow label instructions including application guidelines and age requirements.

young girl smiling in sun


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