Q: I went to the store to buy insect repellent for my children. There are so many kinds -- what's the best? Or are they all the same?
A: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most effective insect repellents contain diethlytoluamide, which, fortunately for us, goes by the named DEET. Those products suitable for use on children should not contain more than 10 percent DEET, as this chemical is absorbed through the skin and can potentially cause harm. Read product labels carefully.
Insect repellents are effective against a variety of insects such as mosquitoes and gnats but offer little or no protection for bees, wasps and hornets. To keep stinging insects away from your children, don't use scented soaps or hair products and don't dress them in flowery or brightly colored clothing.
If it is not possible to avoid areas where stinging insects congregate, dress your children in long sleeves and pants. This is an onerous burden for summertime, however, it is important, especially if a child has a serious allergy to insect venom.
The AAP points out that continuous use of antihistamines during insect season does not prevent reactions to bites and can make children sleepy.
Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.