Are Mosquito Bites Dangerous to Infants?
Should You Take Your Baby Outdoors?
You have a young baby and summertime outdoors are beckoning. But there are concerns about taking your little one along to enjoy outdoor activities. You know about common risks and how to prevent their negative effects – like slathering on the sunscreen to prevent overexposure to sun. But what about mosquitoes? How safe will your baby be in the presence of those inevitable blood suckers? The answer to that question may leave you second guessing your outing. But take heart, there are mosquito bite preventions available.
The Dreaded Mosquito Bite
Mosquitoes are more than just annoying, unwanted insects buzzing your ears in the stillness of evening. They have long been known to carry within them a variety of debilitating and even deadly diseases. Globally responsible for more deaths throughout human history than any other creature, many scientists argue the mosquito to be the deadliest animal on earth. Your infant may be aware of the initial tickle, and then itch of the ‘bite’, but without mosquito bite prevention, Baby has just possibly become the catalyst for what could be a frightening chain of events.
Mosquitoes become aware that you and your infant are nearby simply because you have exhaled. They are drawn to the carbon dioxide present in exhaled breath. The males of the species are not interested in you or Baby, preferring pollen. The females, however, are honing in. Because they are breeding, they are producing eggs and are in need of the protein found in blood. The female will land on the exposed skin of Baby and begin to penetrate the skin with it’s proboscis. She begins to draw Baby’s blood. Your infant has also just been injected with the anesthetic and anticoagulant that is present in the mosquito’s saliva. This signals the human body’s immune system to work against these injected substances, and the itch begins. But, that might not be the only substance that the hated mosquito has just introduced into your baby’s body.
The Mosquito’s Infamous Reputation
Unless prudent mosquito bite prevention is exercised, humans tend to be easy prey for these blood thirsty predators. Unfortunately, mosquitoes have exacted a staggering toll on human life over the millennia by way of a deadly collection of diseases. Included among those diseases are:
Malaria: a parasitic infection of the liver and red blood cells; as red cells are damaged the resulting clots can further damage organs.
Yellow Fever: a viral infection that can cause heart, liver and kidney problems, hemorrhaging and death.
West Nile Virus: a viral infection with symptoms that can last weeks and can cause long-term neurological damage.
Prevention of Mosquito Bites is Important for Babies
While the history of human encounters with mosquitoes is bleak, present and future encounters are manageable and positive. Prevention of mosquito bites, especially for babies, is a critical step to exercise when planning any outdoor activity or simply enjoying everyday life during mosquito season. Fortunately, humans have a broad arsenal of weapons at hand.
- First, think habitat. While mosquitoes are a critical element of global ecosystems as food for beneficial animals, and have been hanging around the planet for up to 30 million years, eliminating their habitat in your immediate area is simple. Mosquitoes require water for reproduction. Be vigilant to remove all standing water. Change birdbaths daily. Eliminate all open containers that can collect rainwater.
- Second, think structural. Make sure that all doors and windows have fine screening that prevents access to mosquitoes. Seal all cracks or openings to structures. Use mosquito netting to cover cribs and carriages.
- Third, use natural or chemical repellants. Repellants today come in many forms of application. The CDC has recommended the use of time-tested DEET which can be used on babies and oil of eucalyptus (not safe for children under three) among other repellants.
- Fourth, avoid exposure. Stay indoors during dawn and dusk to minimize exposure, as mosquitoes are most active during these hours.
Take these steps to insure your infant’s safety during the mosquito season. Knowing how best to avoid or minimize exposure and prevent mosquito bites can give you peace of mind, and make the outdoors enjoyable once again for you and your baby.