Buzz Off: How to Protect Your Baby From Bug Bites

When bugs bug you, you can swat, spray, or move away from them to save your skin. But your baby needs your help to keep stings and bites at bay.

What works? What's safe for infants?

Babies Under 2 Months

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is clear: Bug repellents -- even the DEET-free ones -- are not safe for newborns.

Since you can't use lotions and sprays on the very small, the best way to keep your baby from becoming a bug buffet is by avoiding bugs in the first place.

Stay in. Bugs, especially mosquitoes, are most active at dawn and dusk. Keep your baby indoors during those hours to lower his bite risk.

Defend your house. Make sure your windows and doors have screens to keep bugs from flying or crawling inside.

Cover with clothes. Dress your baby so bugs don't have any access to skin.

  • Loose-fitting long sleeves and pants
  • Socks
  • A hat

Skip the bright, flowery prints. Bugs are attracted to those.

Protect with a net. Use a fitted mesh net over carriers and strollers when you take your baby outdoors.

Drain standing water. Look around your house for soggy sites, like:

  • Planters
  • Birdbaths
  • Wading pools

Drill holes in tire swings to keep water from collecting. Change your pets' water bowls regularly.

Skip the scents. Many bugs love the smell of perfumes, hairsprays, and scented soaps. Use fragrance-free products on your baby (and yourself when you're with your baby) so you're less attractive to insects.

Avoid bug hangouts. Flower gardens, garbage cans, piles of dead leaves, and bushes are all popular places for bug parties, so steer clear.

As for bug zappers, don't bother. They don't work and may even invite more insects over.

Babies Over 2 Months

Once your baby is a little older, you can add repellent sprays and lotions to your bug-fighting kit.

According to the CDC, insect repellent is the best way to protect your baby from mosquito bites -- as long as you use it correctly.

Repellents also protect from other biting bugs like ticks, fleas, chiggers, and biting flies. But they don't work for stinging bugs, like wasps, bees, and hornets.

Continued

Research says repellents with these active ingredients work the longest:

  • DEET
  • I5353
  • Picaridin

When you use DEET, choose products with less than 30%. And the less time your baby will be outside, the lower the concentration of DEET you should use.

Neither the natural repellent oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) nor its lab-made version called PMD is safe for kids under 3 years old.

Other repellents made with plant essential oils, such as citronella, cedar, and soybean, can sometimes work. They aren't as long-lasting, though, and they can irritate your baby's skin.

Applying Bug Repellent

Whether you choose sprays, liquids, creams, or sticks to use on your baby:

  • Always read the directions on the package.
  • Apply it to your hands first, then rub it on your baby's skin.
  • Use just enough to protect skin not covered by clothes.
  • Don't put it on your baby's hands or near his mouth and eyes.
  • Skip skin that's cut, scraped, or has a rash.

Wash your hands when you're done.

If you want to put sunscreen on your baby, too, do that first.

Don't use a bug repellent and sunscreen combo. You'll have to reapply it more often than repellent alone.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 10, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Choosing an Insect Repellent for Your Child," "2015 Summer Safety Tips."

CDC: "Insect Repellents Help Prevent Malaria and Other Diseases Spread by Mosquitoes," "West Nile Virus Fact Sheet," "Avoid Insect Bites," "Guidelines for DEET Insect Repellent Use," "Protection against Mosquitoes, Ticks, & Other Arthropods."

Environmental Protection Agency: "DEET."

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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