You know what really bugs us?
West Nile virus. Lyme Disease. Encephalitis. Summer bugs conjure up unpleasant thoughts as we look forward to shedding layers and heading out to camp or sunbathe. Although diseases as a result of mosquito and tick bites are relatively rare here in North Carolina, parents of little ones (especially those who are immunocompromised) are still understandably concerned about infected bites, allergic reactions, and more serious consequences.
Families have to weigh the risks/benefits of whatever they choose to protect their family, of course. DEET is the single-most long-lasting and effective bug repellent on the market, but its negative side effects are also well-known. This product may outperform many others on the market (with better research, this is beginning to change), but for peace of mind, a great number of parents choose products that are DEET-free for both themselves and their kiddos.
Each product will vary in how long it protects, but here are some great alternatives to help you enjoy the outdoors and feel better about what you are slathering on your children’s skin. Always test products to see how skin (and clothing) will react!
Sawyer Picaridin is far and away one of the most highly-respected products among those who avoid DEET in their repellents. It has a long history of being an effective (stick to products containing at least 20% picaridin) and safe alternative. Although this is a synthetic product, it has been approved and registered by the EPA, and thoroughly studied.
Check out the National Pesticide Information Center:
“Picaridin repels insects, ticks and chiggers. It is a synthetic compound first made in the 1980s. It was made to resemble the natural compound piperine, which is found in the group of plants that are used to produce black pepper. Picaridin has been widely used as an insect repellent in Europe and Australia, but has only been available in the United States since 2005.”
Besides Sawyer, Natrapel also has 20% picaridin.
Other popular repellents, such as Burt’s Bees All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent and All Terrain Kids Herbal Armor Natural Insect Repellent, contain products known to dissuade biting bugs. Oil of citronella, oil of geranium and oil of cedar are some of the ingredients each have in common. These products do have to be applied more frequently to continue to be effective, but they are a great choice for kids. It is recommended to be cautious with this product around very little ones, as they will rub their eyes and put their hands in their mouth.
Products with lemon eucalyptus oil (Repel Lemon Eucalyptus) are not recommended for children under three, but they have very positive reviews from users.
Other than directly applying a product to the little ones in your life, ways to improve your family’s chances of making it through summer as less of a target are:
- Avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Eliminate or reduce standing water on your property, which can be a breeding site for mosquitoes. Drain flower pots, swimming pool covers, barrels and other objects that can collect water on a weekly basis. Add a fountain or drip system to ponds and birdbaths on your property to keep water fresh.
- Repair or replace any torn screens on windows and doors.
- Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes when outdoors, especially in wooded areas or tall grasses.
- Wear light colored clothing, which makes it easier to spot ticks and other insects.
- When hiking, stay in the center of trails, away from vegetation.
- Keep your own yard tick-free by cutting grass low and remove weeds, woodpiles and debris.
- Inspect yourself and your family members carefully for ticks after being outdoors.
We would love if you shared your experiences with us about any repellents you’ve tried and tell us what works best with your family!
Leanne Wells, 2017