Wondering whether you can use bug spray on your baby? Or which is the safest bug spray for babies? I had similar questions for my little girl especially when I had to spend a lot of time outdoors with her. I have compiled all my research and the answers I have found from authentic US government sources in this article.
Yes. According to the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), most conventional bug spray or repellents containing DEET and Picardin can be used for babies who are more than two months old. For newborns and infants, less than 2 months avoid any bug spray or repellent, use infant carriers draped with mosquito netting instead. Also, note that products containing OLE (Oil of lemon eucalyptus) should not be used on children who are less than 3 years old.
Do not allow children to handle repellents or apply directly on their hands. Apply it on your own hand first and then spread it to your child’s exposed skin.
Common Repellents containing DEET that can be applied to babies more than three months old:
Repellents containing Picardin that can be applied to babies who are more than 3 months old:
- Cutter Advanced
- Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus
For infants less than two months old it is best to use mosquito nettings for baby carriers like this.
Apply repellents that are just enough to cover exposed skin. Heavy application is unnecessary and does not increase effectiveness.
When children return indoors after playing outside, wash repellent-treated skin with soap and water, or have them take a bath. In general, it is suggested to wash the treated clothing before wearing them again, but it may vary with different products, so check the label first.
Remember, that repellents prevent bites from biting insects like mosquito, ticks, fleas but not insects that sting. Insect repellents come in many forms, including aerosols, sprays, liquids, creams, and sticks.
Some of these are made from chemicals and others have natural ingredients. So it is important to know which repellent to choose and how they work specially where babies are concerned.
- Chemical based repellents with DEET (N N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) is considered the best defense against insect bites and is safe for babies more than 2 months old. Its effect lasts for about 2 to 5 hours depending on the concentration of DEET in the product.
- Products with Picardin has been found to work as well as DEET by CDC in 2005. They have effectiveness duration of 3 to 8 hours depending on the concentration. No adverse effect has been found when applied on children, but as a general rule use it only for children over 3 months old.
- Repellents made from essential oils like citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, and soybean usually have effectiveness for less than 2 hours. Though it is rare, allergies may happen when using repellents from essential oil. So use it with caution especially for children.
- Chemical repellents with permethrin kill tick on contact, This should be applied on cloths avoiding direct contact. Generally, it lasts even after several washes when applied to clothes.
Yes, repellents containing DEET has been found to be safe for babies by CDC. But some precautions should be taken like not to apply it on infants less than two months old.
Do not apply DEET more than once in a day. So avoid using products that come with a combination of DEET and sunscreen because you may need to apply sunscreen more than once a day.
If your child is supposed to stay outside for less than two hours consider using DEET with less concentration for your baby. If the outside stay is for longer hours, use DEET of higher concentration as it’s effective duration increases with higher concentration.
Do not allow children to handle DEET. Do not spray DEET on a child’s hand directly as they may put the hand in mouth or eyes which may cause irritation.
According to a study published in ASTMH – the official journal of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene – no adverse effect has been found for using DEET during pregnancy.
A double-blind study was done on women who applied DEET regularly during their second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The study concluded that DEET is safe to apply during pregnancy as no neurologic, gastrointestinal or dermatologic adverse effect was found on the group of women who applied DEET.
The study also concluded that the risk of DEET accumulating in the fetus is very low and hence safe for use by pregnant women.
Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus contains Picardin which is an effective lotion to keep mosquitos away and also prevents insect bites. Apart from this, lotions containing DEET concentration less than 10% is safe to use for children above 2 months old.
Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin is also quite effective to keep mosquitos away and can be used as a baby lotion to stay safe from mosquitos and insects bites.
Themacell lantern works by vaporizing allethrin which is a pyrethroid insecticide safe for mammals due to a lower sensitivity of their sodium channel but toxic highly to insects and fishes.
However, later studies found allethrin exposure for long time results in a significant increase in the levels of plasma glucose, phospholipids, nitrite and nitrate with a decrease in plasma cholesterol in human being.
So in general though Thermacell which uses allethrin may not be harmful to adult human for short exposures, it is safe to not use it near babies and pets.
If you are going outdoors with your child for a long time, it is best to limit the child’s exposure to skeeters with netting or if there is a breeze, keep her upwind of the Thermacell lantern.
Study shows that linalool found in lavender keeps mosquito away and has a similar effect to DEET but its effectiveness is enhanced if used in combination with other essential oils like citronella, cinnamon or tea tree oil.
Any lavender lotion that contains lavender in a combination of any of these oils is effective in keeping mosquitos away. So although lavender baby lotion-like Johnson’s is good for baby sleep it can keep mosquitos away for only a small duration as it does not contain the combination of other oils mentioned above, which increases lavender’s effectiveness as a mosquito repellent.