Have a kid who is a mosquito magnet? I understand, believe me. A single infected bite from a bloodsucking insect can easily grow into the size of a bar of soap on my skin, the lump growing hot, hard and purple. When I was six years old, I traveled to Thailand, my parents' home country. It was monsoon season over there. I got bitten by swarms of tropical mosquitoes and had to be hospitalized because my body's reaction was so severe.
If there is a mosquito in the neighborhood, it will find me. In the summer, I rarely go out into nature without slathering myself in DEET spray. The AAP recommends choosing insect repellents with 30% DEET if used on children over six months in age -- but they should be used sparingly, and not at all on infants under two months. Still, who wants to spray the kids with chemicals before an early morning walk or an outdoor concert at dusk, when skeeters are most likely to feed?
That's why these Don't Bite Me! patches may just be changing my life. Each one is a clear, 3"x3" patch that you peel and stick onto your body -- they recommend the hip, the rear, the shoulder or the back. The sticker works by delivering a dose of thiamine, or Vitamin B1, into your skin, which is then absorbed by the body and secreted out. This secretion forms a smell barrier which masks the human odor that is so attractive to biting insects. You apply them two hours before you go outdoors. Once applied, the waterproof patch offers protection from biters for up to 36 hours, according to the package.
Before you scoff, you should know that I couldn't have been more skeptical. Nothing has worked for me except DEET-based sprays and clothing my body from head-to-toe, even on the hottest days of summer. But I went to two backyard barbecues last weekend without getting my bare arms bitten, even though my friends were getting attacked by bloodsuckers. Miraculous! The real test comes this weekend, when I try to wear shorts at my friend's woodsy house in upstate New York.
Worried about the high dosage of vitamin B1? I asked our Mom Squad pediatrician, Dr. Lara Zibners, for the scoop. She hasn't tried them and can't vouch for them personally, but said, "They are absolutely safe if the most toxic thing is vitamin B1 (Thiamine). Thiamine is one of the water-soluble vitamins that are essential to our health. The difference between water-soluble vitamins (C, B1) and fat soluble (D, A, E) is that the body doesn't store them and you usually pee out any excess."
- It worked! For me, anyway.
- It's waterproof -- I showered with it, twice, with no apparent loss of efficacy. Great for kids who want to stay bite-free at the camp swimming hole.
- No DEET.
- Protects the entire body while only touching one small square of skin.
- The website claims that the B1 secretion is not detectable by humans, but I could definitely smell the thiamine coming off me. It wasn't too bad -- the smell is strongest right where the patch is, and it's like the whiff you get when you take the cap off of a bottle of vitamins. Not very off-putting, but not the kind of smell you want emanating if you're, say, sitting in a small car with three friends with sensitive noses.
- The site where I placed the patch on my skin was a tiny bit irritated, probably from the very strong adhesive used to keep it on the body. You might want to test an invisible area (like the back or hip) on a kiddo with sensitive skin.
- At $4.99 for 5 patches, which will last you about 7-8 days, it's not as cheap as spray repellent.
If you want to try the patch, the website is offering a free sample on their Contact Us page. Keep in mind that the patch is not recommended for children under 2 years of age, nor has it been approved for pregnant or breastfeeding women. From their FAQs: "It seems to be especially effective for those people with large allergic reactions to bites...We find that the patch works for about 8 out of 10 people who use the product."
Let us know if they work for you and your kids!
UPDATE: Went up to the country this weekend -- once again, the patch worked! It also worked for my friend who is, like me, a total mosquito magnet. No bites -- even after we had dinner outdoors at dusk. Maybe now I can go stay with people near the woods without bringing my mosquito net.