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The Safest Way To Apply Bug Spray To Babies, According To Experts

by Shannon Evans

It's that time of year: The days are longer, adventure awaits, and you're soaking up every possible summer experience with your baby — which often means extended time spent outdoors. With the different viruses spread by mosquitos, plus the itching and discomfort that they and other pests threaten your little one with, most parents are wondering, "Can you use bug spray on babies?"

In an exclusive interview with Romper, pediatrician and health care educator Dr. Jarret Patton says, "To prevent stinging and biting insects from feasting on your babies this summer, insect repellent is a good option for babies over 2 months old. (Babies under 3 months old should not have insect repellent.) Repellents with 15 to 30 percent DEET are effective and safe for babies over 2 months, and DEET is proven effective to prevent tick bites as well. Many insect repellents are marketed to children — simply make sure it contains DEET."

However, Patton warns, remember that babies instinctively put their hands in their mouths and Deet is dangerous if ingested. So when you're applying bug spray to your over 2-month-old, be careful to avoid putting the repellent on her hands, lest they make their way into her mouth like you know they will.

Brad Leahy, CEO of B.O.G. Pest Control in Maryland, tells Romper that repellent products are legally obligated to state age restrictions, so finding one appropriate for your child's age shouldn't be hard. However, Leahy recommends not applying bug spray to your baby more than once a day, and suggests that parents use other means to keep the critters at bay if they're out for an extended period of time.

"Mosquitoes are attracted to bright, patterned clothing and to dark clothing because it's easier to find their target," Leahy says. "If you're planning to spend the day in a wooded or swampy area, dress your baby in light-colored outfits and as much skin coverage as the summer temperatures allow for. Additionally, wind makes it harder for mosquitoes to detect carbon dioxide, and it makes it difficult to fly towards a target. Save your baby from mosquito bites and the heat by picking a breezy spot. No wind? Plugging in a fan on a low setting has the same effect."

For babies over 2 months old, insect repellent is a safe choice if used in moderation. The summer heat, on the other hand, might just have you heading indoors before the bugs do.