Adults, kids, and babies react differently to bug bites and the bug sprays made to protect them
Kids have thinner skin, a larger body surface area (BSA) to weight ratio, higher respiratory rates, and are more prone to dehydration or to have immature blood-brain barriers.
The smaller the child, the more exaggerated this differences is, meaning smaller children, especially babies, are more susceptible to bug bites.
Children will also have greater reactions to the sprays, lotions, or wipes we use on them as protection from those bites. Child and baby-safe bug repellents come in sprays, but also in balms and towelettes (wipes) which prove effective more often.
In this Pest Strategies product review you'll learn the answer to questions like:
- What are natural bug sprays?
- How do natural bug sprays work?
- What makes natural bug sprays safe for children and babies?
- Most importantly, what our top picks for the best natural bug sprays are!
If you're eager to jump straight to our #1 choice for the best natural bug spray for kids and babies, click here!
Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
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Babyganics Natural Bug Spray
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California Baby Plant-based Natural Bug Repellant Spray
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Badger Anti-Bug Balm
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gaan + co Mosquito Repellent Wipes
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Our Overall #1 Rated Pick
(updated as of 03/31/2020)
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) has been approved by the EPA for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and a wide variety of flying, stinging bugs. This all-natural spray isn’t sticky or greasy and won’t stain your clothes.
This natural repellent works effectively for up to six hours before you have to reapply it, and carries with it a clean, fresh eucalyptus scent. It’s 100% DEET-free, and can safely be used on children over the age of three.
Top 5 Best Natural Bug Sprays for Babies and Kids
What Are Natural Bug Sprays for Babies and Kids?
“Natural” is a much-abused word but for our purposes, we’ll use it to mean the absence of man-made chemicals or ingredients. We’re only going to consider bug sprays that use ingredients found in nature. They might have to be squeezed or extracted from their source, but that’s the extent of it.
This means we’ll be looking at sprays (along with some balms and wipes) that are based on essential oils. However, essential oils don’t feel oily. They are called oils because they are oil-soluble chemicals in various plants, flowers, nuts, and vegetables.
There are many options for repelling bugs aside from pesticides. Researchers at the Clemson College of Agriculture have published a whole list of non-chemical means of killing and repelling bugs, including the use of essential oils.
How Do Natural Bug Sprays for Babies and Kids Work?
Bugs, especially mosquitoes, are attracted to our body heat and the CO2 we exhale during respiration. Natural bug sprays attempt to confuse their senses by masking our body odors, heat, and CO2.
Because children and babies have a higher respiration rate than adults, bugs will naturally be drawn to them, often in preference to adults. You may need to use extra spray on children and babies to cover up the odors that attract bugs.
This will be tempered by the fact that younger children tend to have more sensitive skin than older ones, so always check the label to see what age group the spray is meant to be used on.
How Do You Find The Best Natural Bug Sprays for Babies and Kids?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t recommend using DEET-based products on children under the age of 2 months. The CDC offers the same advice even though they admit the EPA doesn’t limit their use on infants.
Nonetheless, many parents have become distrustful of DEET and other repellent pesticides such as permethrin. In response to the demand for DEET-free insecticides and repellents, manufacturers have turned to essential oils as an all-natural alternative.
Check out this video for a look at some of the top all-natural bug sprays.
Are Natural Bug Sprays for Babies and Kids Effective?
Yes, although the efficacy will vary from one product to another. Furthermore, some products will require more frequent applications than others. DEET-based sprays will last for 6-8 hours at a time but essential oils may only last for 2-3 hours, sometimes less.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) is mentioned by the EPA on the same page as DEET for preventing mosquitoes and ticks. It has been tested and found to be effective. Many other essential oils have pest control histories that go back for centuries.
How To Use A Natural Bug Spray for Babies and Kids
1. Applying Natural Bug Spray for Babies
Spray their arms, legs, and torso but don’t put it on their hands. Don’t spray their face either. Instead, spray it on your hands then rub your hands around their neck, forehead, ears, and back of the head. Don’t put it around their cheeks, mouth, or eyes.
Babies can’t tell you when they’re being bitten by bugs so keep a close eye on them to make sure it hasn’t worn off.
2. Applying Natural Bug Spray for Toddlers
The same general rule applies to a toddler but you can rub some of the spray on their cheeks. If they’ve outgrown the stage of putting their hands in their mouth, you can put some on their hands too.
3. Applying Natural Bug Spray for Children
Older children should be treated in the same way. You can lightly spray their face if they keep their eyes closed and you hold your hand over their lips. Older kids, such as teenagers can put it on themselves.
Are Natural Bug Sprays for Babies and Kids Safe Around My Pets And Children?
The only honest answer is, “Yes, but . . .”
Allergies are a common problem among children, especially infants and toddlers. Because essential oils are plant-based and haven’t been processed, allergic reactions are an ordinary occurrence.
Before using any bug spray on your children, spray some on a tiny bit of their skin. The upper arm is a good place for the test so they can’t get their mouth on it. Examine the site for the next few hours to see if an allergic reaction occurs. If not, then that spray will be safe to use on your child.
Natural bugs sprays are safe on older children but infants have a terrible habit of putting their hands in their mouths. If you put a spray on their hands, keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t do that. This is an issue regardless of what kind of bug spray you use.
Best Natural Bug Sprays for Babies and Kids Reviewed
The CDC has compiled a list of EPA-approved insect repellents including DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and a wide variety of flying, stinging bugs.
This repellent works effectively for up to six hours before you have to reapply it, and carries with it a clean, fresh eucalyptus scent. This natural repellent is 100% natural and DEET-free, giving you hours of protection without exposing you or your children to harsh chemicals.
Be aware though, the EPA recommends not using Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus on children under the age of three. It’s safe for children over that age though, as long as you don’t get it in their mouth, nose, or eyes.
The primary ingredient in this all-natural bug spray is citronella oil, so naturally, your baby is going to smell like citronella. It also contains peppermint oil, lemongrass, cedar wood, and rosemary essential oils. It’s not greasy but it is sticky and will stain your clothes.
For best results, put this on your little one after you put sunscreen on them. Spray this only on exposed skin to protect them from no-see-ums, chiggers, sand flies, gnats, fleas, and mosquito bites. Babyganics natural insect repellent is good for up to 90 minutes.
It contains only natural ingredients so it’s easy on your babies’ sensitive skin. It also works on older children, but it is intended primarily for infants.
This California baby natural bug repellent uses cedar oil, citronella, and lemongrass oil as the active ingredients. It doesn’t have DEET, permethrin, or any other harsh chemicals in it. It does have vegetable glycerin in it so it may leave a shiny residue.
It is dairy-free, oat-free, gluten-free, and soy-free. It is also nut-free except for coconut so you shouldn’t have to worry about any allergic reactions. It is safe to use on any baby over six-months-old. Under six months, you should use something else.
This is an excellent natural insect repellent made in the United States, it’s Eco-friendly, price-competitive, and has a pleasant scent that isn’t overpowering. It requires frequent reapplication though.
Sometimes the best bug spray is a moisturizing lotion or cream that doubles as a repellent against bug bites. In this case, it’s a stick about the size of an underarm deodorant. It’s DEET-free, with no harsh chemicals or pesticides.
This bug guard balm is a combination of castor oil, citronella, cedar, lemongrass, rosemary, geranium, extra-virgin olive oil, and bees wax. It’s a natural mosquito repellent that repels many other biting, stinging bugs as well.
It is aimed at toddlers and above, so you shouldn’t use it on infants. It lasts for 2-3 hours but it feels a bit greasy and has a tendency to attract any bees in the area.
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Another non-spray bug spray are these DEET-free wipes. They are individually wrapped so they’re ideal for camping trips, boating, fishing, hiking, or any outdoor activity where you don’t want to carry a lot of weight. Just stick a few in your pocket and you’re ready to go.
Keep a few of these wipes in your baby stroller and you can wipe your little one down if mosquitoes start attacking. The active ingredients are sesame seed oil, olive oil, fruit oil, peppermint, castor, wheat germ oil, and tocopherol (found in Vitamin E).
The wipes go on feeling dry, so there’s no greasy feel or stains on your clothes. They have a nice, minty smell. They have to be reapplied frequently though, every 2-3 hours.
Our Top Pick: Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus protects for six hours against mosquitoes, ticks, and a wide variety of flying, stinging bugs. This natural repellent is 100% natural and DEET-free, giving you hours of protection without exposing you or your children to harsh chemicals.
It doesn’t feel greasy and won’t stain your clothes. It’s not sticky either and comes in an easy to use pump spray bottle.
- Completely natural
- Six hours of protection
Final Thoughts On Natural Bug Sprays for Babies and Kids
Natural bug sprays are generally safe and effective for use on your babies and kids. You’ll probably have to reapply the spray (or wipe or balm) more frequently than if you were using a chemical spray but it will keep the bugs away from them and that’s what you’re after.
More Helpful Product Guides for Mosquitoes
Curious about other mosquito and bug bite related products? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your bug bite problems.