6 Best Bug Sprays for Babies
Best Bug Sprays for Babies of 2021
May 25, 2021

Best Bug Sprays for Babies of 2021

Babylist editors love baby gear and independently curate their favorite products to share with you. If you buy something through links on our site, Babylist may earn a commission.
Best Bug Sprays for Babies of 2021.
Want to wear long pants tucked into socks when you go outdoors in super hot weather? Yeah, we don’t either.Best Bug Sprays for Babies of 2021

No one likes getting bug bites. Even worse? Seeing your little one suffer from itchy mosquito bites (or a latched-on tick, yuck!). And with the different diseases that insects can transmit (including Zika and West Nile virus from mosquitoes and Lyme disease from ticks), insect repellent should be top-of-mind before any outdoor outing (second only to sunscreen, of course)–especially in the summer.

But what sorts of insect repellents are available? Hint: it’s not just in spray form. We’ve broken down all the main repellent types as well as safe-use recommendations for pregnancy, babies and children. Before your next jaunt outdoors, arm yourself with the anti-bug supplies you need to keep yourself and your family safe from annoying bites and potential disease.

Do you need bug spray?

Let’s put it this way: Do you want to wear long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks whenever you go outdoors, even during super hot weather? Yeah, we don’t either. Unless you live in an area largely free of biting bugs, we strongly recommend you get some type of bug repellent.

What type of bug spray is best?

Insect repellents come in lotions, sprays, wipes, balms and even patches, but there are three primary anti-bug ingredients that can safely be used on children: DEET, picaridin and essential oils.

DEET

This chemical has long been the favorite insect repellent of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the only one it recommends for combating ticks, but it is not without some controversy. Although DEET is an awesome defense against disease-carrying insects, it can irritate the eyes. Also, in very rare cases (think one in 100 million), it has caused adverse reactions in the nervous system. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using bug sprays that contain 10% to 30% DEET (not to exceed 30%) on children over two months old. Babies two months or younger should not be exposed to DEET at all.

Note that the percentage of DEET in a product does not change the level of effectiveness. The higher the percentage though, the longer the anti-bug protections lasts. Repellents with 10% DEET provide protection for about two hours, and 30% protects for about five hours. The AAP recommends you choose the lowest concentration that will provide the length of coverage your child needs or re-apply more regularly.

Picaridin

Picaridin is great at keeping both mosquitos and ticks at bay just like DEET, but it doesn’t have any neurotoxicity issues. It also doesn’t have a strong smell like DEET, isn’t as irritating on skin and is effective for longer periods of time (so you don’t have to reapply as often). The only downfall is that it hasn’t received as much long-term testing as DEET. A 10% concentration gets you five to twelve hours of protection.

Essential Oils

Many natural brands use essential oils like cedar, citronella, clove, lemongrass, soybean and peppermint to drive bugs away. However, most essential oils haven’t undergone official testing for their repellent qualities.

While some parents report good results with botanical-based products, they often need to be reapplied more frequently, have only been shown to ward off mosquitoes (not other bugs) and may irritate sensitive skin. Also, since essential oils smell so good, they may end up attracting more insects than repelling them. Because of this, it’s best to spot-test essential oil-based bug sprays before fully applying them on skin, and only use them for quick jaunts outside in areas with low insect populations.

Keep in mind: Bug sprays containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) are not recommended for use on babies and children under three years old.

Special Considerations

  • Avoid inset repellents on babies two months and younger. Instead, you’ll need to rely on physical barriers like long-sleeved shirts, long pants and mosquito netting for strollers and carriers. Just make sure the material is lightweight so your little one’s skin can breathe.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding parents can safely use DEET and Picaridin products.
  • Avoid applying insect repellent to babies’ hands, since they often shove them in their mouths. Also, you’ll want to steer clear of putting it near their eyes or mouths or on any open cuts or scrapes.
  • Limit or avoid scented lotions or perfumes. Just like with the yummy-smelling essential oil repellents, wearing scented products can attract bugs when spending time outdoors in areas with higher concentrations of biting insects.
  • Avoid combination sunscreen-and-repellent products. Although it seems like a great idea, it’s not. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied more frequently than chemical bug repellents. By repeatedly slathering on a combo product, you’re exposing your child to more chemical repellent than is needed or recommended. Instead, apply a sunscreen and allow it to soak in, then follow up with bug repellent. Reapply sunscreen as needed.

Phew, that’s quite a bit to digest! But if you’d like even more information, the CDC and AAP both have a comprehensive list of articles on using bug repellents on children. One of the main things to remember, too, is to always follow the directions on the repellent’s packaging.

Now that you’re up to speed, below are some bug repellents for you to consider that use various ingredients in their formulas. You may find that one of these popular picks works great for your baby and even yourself and the rest of your family.

Easy Peasy Non-Greasy

Why We Love It

With 15% DEET and a powder-like spray, this repellent from leading brand OFF! keeps the bugs away and feels good on your skin, not oily or greasy like many other bug sprays.

Keep in Mind

Since this is an aerosol spray, you’ll probably want to hold your breath while spraying it to reduce intake into your lungs. Try spraying and then quickly stepping away.

Gentle & Effective

Why We Love It

These wipes are super convenient. Just throw the resealable bag of eight bug repellent packets in your diaper bag and relax in the great outdoors. Each packet contains a towelette with 10% Picaridin to protect against mosquitoes, deer ticks, gnats, no-seeums, sand flies and biting midges.

Keep in Mind

You’ll only get eight uses from this product, which makes it a pricier option. And, like DEET, Picaridin also needs to be washed off after use. Avon also offers a spray, but since it’s an SPF/insect repellent combo, we don’t recommend it.

Natural Protection

Why We Love It

This essential oil-based repellent can be used by the whole family, and it’s been tested to repel mosquitoes for three hours. While that may not seem like a lot of time compared to other repellents on this list, this DEET- and Picaridin-free spray can be safely reapplied more often and is gentler on sensitive skin. Its primary anti-bug weapons are citronella, rosemary and lemongrass oils, but it also uses additional essential oils to give it a fresh, summery scent.

Keep in Mind

There’s a chance this product might bring bees buzzing around, probably because it includes several floral scents. And if you’re not into the spray, Badger also makes a mosquito-repelling balm that feels silky on the skin (and you don’t need to hold your breath).

Long Lasting

Why We Love It

This repellent, made from 20% Picaridin, is effective for up to 14 hours against mosquitoes and ticks, and up to 8 hours against biting flies, gnats, chiggers and sand flies. And since it’s a lotion rather than a spray, wipe or balm, it’s super comfortable and soothing on skin and doesn’t feel greasy or like it’s sitting on top of your skin. It’s also fragrance free.

Keep in Mind

The lotion also comes in single-use packets that are convinient for group outings when everyone needs to apply repellent at the same time (no need to share the bottle!).

Hardcore Defense

Why We Love It

With 30% DEET, these Repel wipes keep bugs off for an impressive 10 hours. Plus, application is super easy since you can coat your child’s exposed skin with one wipe. The pack includes 20 wipes.

Keep in Mind

These wipes are kind of sticky, and exposed skin will definitely need to be washed off after coming inside.

Before & After Solution

Why We Love It

This cream works overtime to do double duty on insects. Apply it before going outside to repel mosquitoes, black flies, fleas and ticks. And, just in case you forgot repellent beforehand, use it to soothe any itchy bites.

Keep in Mind

It’s made with a blend of eight essential oils, so the smell packs a punch. If you’re sensitive to scents, we recommend trying a different product. Also, the price can seem a little steep for such a small amount of cream (this jar is only two ounces), but you only need to apply a little bit at a time, so the container will last a while.


Choosing What’s Right for You

Let’s face it: No repellent is 100% effective. You need to watch the clock and reapply as required without missing a spot. If you live in an area where your child is at high risk of getting bitten by mosquitoes or ticks, it’s best to go with the heavy hitters: DEET or Picaridin. If the concern isn’t as great where you live, you can keep your options open. But don’t ditch exercising, playing and enjoying the outdoors—just take the proper precautions and have good time.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and the Babylist Health Advisory Board.