Which are the best bug sprays for babies?
What insect repellent is safe for your child?
Which bugs do they keep away?
These are crucial questions.
Illnesses like Zika, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease are on the rise.
They’re all transmitted by mosquito or tick bites.
Then, there are rumors about mosquito repellent being toxic for children.
It’s scary when you want to protect your kids but you don’t know what to use.
Today, you’ll find out whether DEET is safe for babies.
Also, you’ll discover what other effective insect repellents exist.
The minimum age for a baby to wear bug spray
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should never apply bug spray to newborns.
Babies must be at least two months old to wear insect repellent (1).
This includes any type, including DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, and botanicals or essential oils.
But take heart, you still have other solutions for infants under two months old.
For example, you can purchase mosquito netting for the stroller.
You can also dress your child in a hat, with long sleeves, socks, and pants to minimize the amount of skin exposed. Avoid perfumes and scented products, too.
Since insects are usually more active around sunrise and sunset, keep your children indoors during those times.
Is DEET safe to use on babies?
Once your child is old enough to wear insect repellent, it’s time to decide which one best suits your situation.
You may have heard that DEET is dangerous.
This is not true.
Some people may be confusing it with DDT, an outlawed pesticide.
Or they may have heard stories about children having seizures from DEET.
Happily, the government took these claims seriously and investigated them.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) did an in-depth review of DEET twice during the last thirty years (2).
They found that as long as DEET is used only on the skin, and not abused or consumed, there is virtually no risk to babies or young children (3).
The best way you can protect your baby or child is to apply the DEET to her with your own hands.
Pump the lotion or liquid onto your hands, then apply a light layer to her exposed skin. Keep it away from her eyes and mouth.
Also, be careful if she tends to put her hands or feet into her mouth. It’s best not to apply it on those parts.
You can spray it onto clothing like her hat. Just take it off and do it in a ventilated area, not right by her face.
If you need to apply sunscreen, rub that in first, then apply the insect repellent on top.
Only reapply after the appropriate amount of time has elapsed. You don’t need to use a lot of DEET to keep bugs away.
It turns out that the higher the concentration, the longer the effects last. If you’re using a 30% DEET formula, the protection lasts for hours longer than a 7% concentration.
What alternatives to DEET are there?
There are alternatives to DEET like Picaridin, IR3535, and botanicals.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends Picaridin and IR3535 as well as DEET (4).
They say that all three have low safety concerns and provide very good protection against various biting insects and ticks.
Additionally, they protect better than insect repellent bracelets or stickers.
What do these insect repellents for babies protect against?
Picaridin, IR3535, and DEET All three defend against the insects and arachnids a carry West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Zika virus.
Picaridin and IR3535 are safe for all children in concentrations up to 20%.
Meanwhile, 30% DEET or less is safe for babies.
Picaridin keeps away biting flies, chiggers, and fleas, too (5).
Interestingly, IR3535 defends against an additional nuisance – body lice (6).
It’s also known as3-[N-Butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester. You can find it in products like Avon’s Skin So Soft bug repellent.
What about botanical ingredients or essential oils?
There is another insect repellent for older children called oil of lemon eucalyptus. It hasn’t been studied on infants, so it’s best to avoid this option for now.
As for botanical bug repellents, they aren’t the best choice for babies.
You’ll see some with ingredients like soybean oil, castor oil, citronella, geraniol, lemongrass, and so on.
Yes, they smell good. But the problem is that they don’t repel insects as well as DEET, IR3535, or Picaridin.
Worse, they only stay potent for a short time. You’ll have to put it on again after just twenty or thirty minutes.
Another con is that some of these ingredients are allergens.
As much as you’d like to throw together homemade natural mosquito repellent for your babies, please don’t do it. Trust the science.
Top Bug Sprays for Babies
Cutter All Family Insect Repellent Pump Spray
Cutter offers a mild DEET solution that defends against mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, chiggers, gnats, and fleas.
It’s good for everyone in the family, including babies.
The repellent is a thin liquid bottled with a pump sprayer.
Truthfully, I prefer this over an aerosol because it provides better control.
And here’s a fun fact: this insect repellent will last for years without expiring. Store it in a cool dark place.
But there is one catch when it comes to DEET.
No matter how weak the concentration, DEET may damage some synthetic fabrics, plastic, leather, and painted surfaces. It won’t hurt nylon, wool, or cotton.
Cutter 95838, Family Mosquito Wipes
If your diaper bag is already crowded, bring along these wipes instead of a bottle.
Each one is impregnated with a 7.15% solution of DEET.
They smell nice and won’t leave the skin sticky or greasy.
Each resealable pack contains fifteen towelettes.
Again, this is a product that protects against biting flies, chiggers, fleas, gnats, ticks, and mosquitoes.
OFF! Deep Woods Variety Pack
Pretty much everyone recognizes the brand name OFF! It has a good reputation.
You can choose from aerosol, pump spray, or wipes.
This variety pack includes the pump spray and a couple of towelettes.
The formula has 25% DEET, which means it gives you up to eight hours of protection against bugs.
OFF! FamilyCare Insect Repellent IV
Instead of liquids or sprays, try a lotion. It tends to last longer, and it’s straightforward to apply with less mess.
This repellent has 7% DEET.
It has no obvious fragrance, just a masking fragrance to dampen the chemical odor.
Moreover, it contains aloe to benefit the skin.
OFF! Family Care Insect Repellent II
Let’s switch gears for just a moment and look at the OFF! Picaridin bug repellent.
It has a 5% concentration to deter biting insects like mosquitoes.
When you apply it according to the instructions, it keeps the insects from being attracted to your baby’s skin.
Fortunately, it doesn’t feel oily.
Plus, unlike DEET, it won’t harm plastics, painted surfaces, or synthetic materials.
Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin
Consumer Reports was pleased with this insect repellent back in 2016. They called it the “Fisherman’s Formula.”
It’s a non-greasy lotion that protects up to fourteen hours against ticks or mosquitoes.
It also defends against gnats, chiggers, sand flies, and biting flies for up to eight hours.
In other words, it will keep your child safe from the Zika virus and malaria, among other illnesses.
It’s fragrance-free, and it won’t damage fabrics or other surfaces.
Sawyer Products Premium Controlled-Release Insect Repellent Lotion
Here’s a bug repellent that’s sweat-proof.
It defends against mosquitoes and ticks for up to eleven hours.
It’s also odorless and not sticky or greasy.
Feel free to use it over the top of sunscreen.
Lotions last longer than sprays, although they aren’t good for applying on clothing.
The manufacturer recommends increasing the safe zone around the body by applying a spray to the clothing and the lotion to the exposed skin.
Ben’s 30% DEET Mosquito, Tick, and Insect Repellent
This is a spray (not an aerosol) with the maximum recommended concentration for babies.
At this potency, it protects against arachnids and airborne pests for about eight hours.
The 30% DEET concentration also happens to be the minimum that the CDC recommends for defense against biting insects.
What’s more, this is a water-based formula that sits on the surface of the skin. It doesn’t get absorbed into the body.
Since it’s fragrance-free, it’s more pleasant for sensitive noses.
Ranger Ready Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin Mist Spray Bottle, Scent Zero
At 20% concentration, Picaridin keeps mosquitoes and ticks away for twelve hours.
But you’ll need to renew it after eight hours to prevent fleas, chiggers, gnats, and flies from biting.
This is a pump spray with a fine mist. You can put it on your child’s skin or their clothing and stroller.
It’s odorless and not greasy.
Take note that the manufacturer recommends this product for children that are at least one year of age. But it should be safe for pregnant women.
Avon Skin so Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin Insect Repellent
Avon’s insect repellent towelettes contain an unspecified amount of Picaridin.
There are eight inside the reclosable bag.
Although the active ingredient is considered non-toxic, it’s a good idea not to put it on the skin that your baby will put in his mouth.
Natrapel Mosquito, Tick, and Insect Repellent Wipes
These wipes have 20% Picaridin, the minimum recommended by the CDC to prevent diseases like West Nile virus.
It’s also the maximum concentration for your child.
Each towelette is individually wrapped. It has a floral fragrance.
To avoid adverse reactions, don’t put on the repellent more than twice a day. Also, keep it off sunburned or injured skin.
Repel HG-94119 Sportsman Insect Stick
Instead of liquids, sprays, and lotions, try this stick applicator.
It has 30% DEET to protect up to eight hours against biting bugs.
It’s considered safe for infants over two months of age.
California Baby Plant-based Natural Bug Repellant Spray
If you’ve already searched for bug sprays for babies, you might’ve seen this product.
California Baby makes a variety of things for infants, from shampoo to sunscreen and lotion.
Therefore, you might be inclined to try this spray on your children.
After all, it’s described as a safe, natural alternative to DEET.
But some cons might change your mind.
First, you’ll need to reapply it every twenty minutes or so to keep the insects away.
It contains lemongrass, citronella, and cedar essential oil. These give it an appealing scent that allegedly repels bugs.
The problem is that as soon as the scent fades, the bugs come back.
If you’re in an area where bug-borne diseases are a significant risk, I wouldn’t bet your child’s safety on this.
Avon Skin so Soft Bug Guard PLUS IR3535 Insect Repellent Lotion – SPF 30
Moms and dads can benefit from bug spray as well.
It’s like herd immunity.
Avon’s combination of sunscreen and insect repellent is very convenient for adults and children. It saves space when you’re packing for a day at the park or the beach.
The lotion is water-resistant and non-greasy. It leaves the skin soft and lightly fragranced.
The ingredient that repels bugs is IR3535, which is considered safe for babies.
The only downside is that it contains chemical UV filters. It’s not a mineral sunscreen. Consequently, I don’t feel confident recommending it for babies.
The Original Drawstring Baby Mosquito Net
If you’d prefer to avoid chemicals altogether, get a mosquito net.
Of course, once your child starts to crawl and walk, they probably won’t want to stay put, and you’ll need a different solution.
In the meantime, I wish that all newborns and infants had access to a product like this.
The net measures 46 x 53 inches. That size allows it to fit over pretty much every stroller or car seat. Then, use the elastic drawstring to close it tightly.
There are over one thousand holes per square inch. That’s excellent as it prevents tiny insects from entering into your baby’s space.
It blocks even tiny bugs like midges. But the mesh allows plenty of air to flow.
When not in use, it comes with its own bag for storage.
Someone wise once said that a step you take before a problem happens looks like overreacting. But after the crisis, you’ll wish you had done more.
Don’t be one of those parents that wish you’d done more.
The few dollars you spend on bug spray for your child are more than worth it.
It keeps your baby safe and gives you peace of mind.
1. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/protect-baby-bug-bites#1 accessed March 2, 2020
2. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp185.pdf accessed March 2, 2020
3. https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/deet accessed March 2, 2020
4. https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/22197/ask-ewg-what-s-best-bug-spray-buy-my-kids by Nicole Ferox, published Wednesday, August 22, 2018, accessed March 2, 2020
5. https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/reg_actions/registration/fs_PC-070705_01-May-05.pdf accessed March 2, 2020
6. https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/reg_actions/registration/fs_PC-113509_01-Jan-00.pdf accessed March 2, 2020