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.
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
- 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:
- 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.
Research says repellents with these active ingredients work the longest:
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.