What parents do to keep kids safe from ticks and mosquitoes


Warmer weather means more time outside and the risk of a mosquito or tick bite. A poll examines how parents try to keep their children safe.

The warm summer weather means that many children want to spend as much time as they can outside in nature. The extra time in the great outdoors can increase the likelihood of children coming into contact with mosquitoes and ticks, which can mean insect bites or even disease. A C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health looked at what parents of children aged 5 to 12 years do to protect them.1

Nearly all of the parents, 87%, stated that they either usually or sometimes used insect repellent on children. When asked about what made them choose the repellent used, 37% of parents said that they chose one that was specifically advertised for use with children and 30% said that they chose “natural” or homemade products. When asked about whether their repellent used N,N-Diethyl-meta-Toluamide (DEET), 35% of parents said it did, 37% said it did not, and 29% were not sure. Children were less likely to have repellent applied when they were in their own yard or neighborhood (17%) or the local park (18%), than when they were in a wooded or swampy area (53%).

Parents also used clothing to avoid insect bites. Roughly 75% of parents would ensure that their child always wore shoes outside. Other defenses included wearing light-colored clothing (21%) and wearing long pants and sleeves when outside (21%). One in 5 parents also said that they had their child avoid floral soaps and shampoos.

When a child was bitten by a mosquito, many topical products, oral medicines, and home remedies were used by parents. Home remedies used included baking soda (14%), ice/cold rags (51%), and oatmeal baths (16%). Nearly half of the parents said they used oral antihistamines, 24% said they gave their child ibuprofen and 23% said that they used acetaminophen. Topical hydrocortisone was used by 61% of parents and topical antihistamines were used by 55%.

In the case of a tick being found on a child, the most common ways to remove the insect were tweezers (72%), the application of rubbing alcohol (23%), the use of a fingernail or credit card (19%), or applying Vaseline(13%). If a child showed symptoms following a tick bite, parents would seek medical help if the symptom was fever (82%), rash (73%), unsure if a part of the tick was still attached (62%) or if there was a dark spot in the bite area (58%). More parents said they would be very concerned about a tick bite than a mosquito bite.


1. C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. National Poll on Children's Health: Protecting kids against mosquitoes and ticks. 2020;36(3). Available at: https://mottpoll.org/reports/protecting-kids-against-mosquitoes-and-ticks. Published June 15, 2020. Accessed July 16, 2020.

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Tina Tan, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, FPIDS, editor in chief, Contemporary Pediatrics, professor of pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, pediatric infectious diseases attending, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
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