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Using Bug Spray On Babies Isn't As Scary As You Think — Here's How To Do It

There are many of my traits my daughter inherited that I notice and think, "Ah, well, makes sense." But some of them, like her ability to attract mosquitos in 1.9 milliseconds, are ones I wish would have fallen by the wayside. After all, I know just how itchy and frustrating those bites can be. My instinct is to build a citronella candle circle around her, but as you may have guessed, there are guidelines to keep in mind with those kinds of measures. In fact, here is what you need to know before you put bug spray on your baby or stash insect repellant in your purse.

"Bug spray is vital to protect ourselves from ticks, disease-carrying mosquitos, and other critters," a spokesperson for Chemical Safety Facts.org tells Romper in an email interview. "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we should be using repellents with DEET. Repellents are safe to use on skin and clothing and encouraged by doctors to prevent disease."

It's true: The CDC noted that you can begin using insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US), or IR3535 when your child is 2 months old. The CDC also suggested that you shouldn't use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.

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Kyle Varona, the general manager of Florida-based Fahey Pest & Lawn Solutions, tells Romper via email that it's also important to know what mosquitos and other pesky bugs are looking for.

"Mosquitoes find their targets based on scent, and they're drawn to carbon dioxide and lactic acid," he says. "Lactic acid is primarily associated with dairy products, so babies who drink milk or eat cheese or yogurt may be more attractive to mosquitoes. Lactic acid is also found in soybean products, so if you're planning to spend some time outdoors, plan snack time accordingly."

That's why Varona says it's crucial to get a spray that works — just make sure to read the label before you buy. If your child is the appropriate age, then he says the most effective bug sprays include DEET or Picaridin, and they work to protect you from both mosquitoes and tick-borne illnesses.

"These are much more effective than botanical formulas, and they aren't harmful to your child if applied safely," Varona says. "Stay away from anything with more than 20 percent DEET, and avoid applying more than once per day."

The spokesperson for Chemical Safety Facts.org says it's also important, in this instance, to not discount chemicals as unsafe. "No insect repellent is 'chemical free,' as everything is made of chemicals, even water and air," they say, adding that some insect repellents are made with only natural plant oils, but have not been evaluated by EPA for effectiveness. "The CDC recommends using EPA-registered insect repellents that have been tested for safety and effectiveness. Doctors urge parents with children of all ages to keep in mind that it is better to wear EPA-approved repellants (even with DEET) than your baby to get bit by a disease-carrying mosquito or tick."

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Just be sure to rub the spray on your little one (as opposed to spraying it). "Babies are notorious for putting their hands in their mouths or rubbing their faces, so always spray bug spray on your hands first, then rub it on your child's skin," Varona says.

You might also want to consider how you are dressed when you head outdoors. "In addition to odors, mosquitoes are drawn to bright clothes or loud patterns that make it easier to see their target," Varona says. "Dress your baby in light-colored outfits. If it's not too hot, consider layers to cover as much of their skin as possible."

And if you do decide to opt for a natural repellant, then consider products that contain oils like peppermint, lemon, and eucalyptus, Siobhan O'Grady, founder of Findatopdoc.com, tells Romper in an email interview. You can even try making your own bug spray to keep around the house. Because if you're anything like me, then you make it your mission to keep those bugs gone in as many ways possible.