Beat it, skeeters!

Take the bite out of summer with pest prevention

Just for kids

August 26, 1999|By Chris Wittenborn | By Chris Wittenborn,Chicago Tribune

With summertime comes pool parties, backyard picnics and, of course . . . mosquitoes There's nothing worse than feeling defenseless against a bug that weighs a measly 2.5 milligrams and flies at a tedious 1.5 mph.

How can you avoid those nasty skeeters? We asked Ken Holscher, a professor of entomology at Iowa State University. "The best thing you can do is avoid early mornings and late evenings," he said.

Next best is "Wearing insect repellent that contains (the insecticide) deet," Holscher said.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that deet is safe, if used correctly. Holscher said: "I always see parents telling their kids, 'OK, take a deep breath and close your eyes' as they spray them down with repellent. That is a bad idea, because a lot of deet can be toxic. Kids should use lotion or roll-on, rather than spray-on."

The repellent, Hoscher explained, creates a field of molecules around your body that clogs the attacking mosquito's nose and sensors.

Bite-size facts

Mosquitoes can be annoying, and their bites can be itchy-painful. But it can get worse: In very rare cases, their bites can cause the deadly disease encephalitis. Healthy people can usually fight off the disease, but it's especially harmful to the young, elderly and sick. In 1975, 578 cases of encephalitis were reported in Illinois; 47 people died.

Repellent advice:

* Make sure repellent is approved by the EPA. (The label will say.)

* Use it sparingly. Also, the Academy of Pediatrics says kids shouldn't use repellents with a deet concentration of more than 10 percent.

* Never use a repellent on cuts or scraped skin. Avoid eyes and the skin under clothes. Wash clothes after each repellent use.

* If you baby-sit, check with adults before using repellent on little kids. Never let the kids touch sprayed areas, then their mouth or lips. And NEVER use on kids 1 or younger.

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