Bug bites aren’t just annoying. They can also be potentially dangerous, especially those from ticks and mosquitos, as those bugs can carry several different diseases. So in addition to protecting their kids’ skin from the sun this summer, parents should also be shielding them from pesky bug bites.
Of course, parents also want to be equally careful about what they use to prevent bug bites — some formulas contain chemicals that can be harmful to kids. So, where to start? First, note that bug sprays of any kind are not recommended for babies under 2 months old, so keep them covered when outside or invest in a mosquito net that goes over the stroller or car seat. If your child is old enough, find a bug spray that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, which means it’s been tested and deemed safe for use, especially on children. You can search for specific bug sprays via the EPA’s search tool.
What to consider when buying bug spray for kids
While the EPA is one great resource, Dr. Ari Brown, founder of 411 Pediatrics in Austin, Texas, recommends following the Centers for Disease Control’s directives for bug sprays and active ingredients that protect against West Nile Virus. She also broke down the most effective and common ingredients found in bug sprays:
- DEET: Products containing DEET are very effective, and the percentage of DEET indicates the duration of time it is protective. The downside is you can only apply it once a day, so you have to decide how long you want or need protection, and you need to bathe and rinse off the product at the end of the day. DEET gets a bad rap because it is a neurotoxin, but if it’s appropriately applied and not reapplied throughout the day, the potential risk is minimized.
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus: Oil of lemon eucalyptus is effective and can be reapplied, but it is not approved for children under age 3.
- Picaridin: Picaridin-based products can also be reapplied. Just keep it out of the eyes because it is a synthetic product and can be irritating!
Dr. Brown also advises that “anything that claims to be natural and safe [but] lacks these ingredients is also lacking something else — effectiveness!”
Finally, it’s essential to follow the directions for use on any bug spray you apply to your kids, and be sure to reapply if you’re outside for extended amounts of time.
Below, check out our list of the best bug sprays for kids.