The pesky mosquito can cause more than just an itchy welt; it also can bring on potentially life-threatening diseases and conditions.

Mosquitoes are as much a part of summertime as hot temperatures and outdoor picnics. But a University of Louisville pediatrician warns parents that preventing mosquito bites in children is important for their long-term health.

Besides making your kids uncomfortable, mosquito bites can cause an allergic reaction in some children, resulting in welts, lesions, bruises, a burning, itching sensation or hives. In extreme cases, an allergy to mosquito bites causes anaphylaxis, a rare, serious condition that results in swelling in the throat and wheezing and requires immediate medical attention.

Mosquitoes also can carry viruses with even greater long-term consequences, such as malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis, yellow fever, West Nile virus and meningitis. While occurring rarely, these diseases are serious and life-threatening.

“I have lots of patient visits over the summer about mosquito bites,” said Heather Felton, MD, an instructor in the UofL Department of Pediatrics and medical director of the UofL Pediatrics Clinic at Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre. “They are more than just pests, but with correct preventative measures, the incidence of mosquito bites can be greatly reduced.”

Here’s what parents can do:

  • Dress all children in clothing that covers their arms and legs
  • For infants and toddlers, use mosquito netting over their stroller.
  • For children older than 2 months, use insect repellent containing DEET.
  • Be sure your windows and doors have screens to keep pests out of the home.
  • Empty containers of standing water – the mosquito breeding ground – around your house.
  • See a pediatrician immediately if your child is bitten and then exhibits symptoms such as fever, wheezing, headache, body ache, nausea, rash or hives around the bite, sensitivity to light, confusion or muscle weakness in one area of the body.

“Parents can contact us any time if they have concern about a bite,” Felton said. “We have a nursing triage line and doctors on call, so if a parent is unsure about the seriousness of a mosquito bite, we encourage them to call immediately.”

The after-hours line is 502-242-0328 and the UofL Pediatrics Clinic at Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre is located at 982 Eastern Parkway.