Adventure Mom: A Guide to Using Insect Repellent on Young Children

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As a mom, I know that a successful adventure trip truly depends on the kiddos having a great time. This means being prepared for cuts, scrapes, sunburns and insect bites. Having a first-aid kit isn’t always enough, especially when it comes to mosquitoes and ticks. Hitting the trail with insect repellent is extremely important. Keeping your children safe from viruses and illnesses carried by insects is top priority!

Insect Repellent Guidelines:

  • Avoid Using Perfumes & Lotions: These lovely scents are not needed on the trail. Perfumes and lotions attract insects, which increases your likelihood of being bit and contracting an illness. If you are using sunscreen on the trail, opt for a non-scented spray or lotion.
  • DEET: According to the U.S. Center For Disease Control (CDC), DEET is safe for children over two months old and pregnant women. However, be cautious about using an insect repellent with more than 30% DEET, as it is not needed in order to be effective. Higher concentrations of DEET do not make it more potent, it simply means that it will last longer. For short day hikes, nothing more than 30% concentration of DEET is needed. But if you and your family will be backpacking for several days, you may want to have a higher concentration of DEET in your insect repellent. Using a lower concentration and applying frequently will be just as effective though. The CDC has recorded negative health effects from people who regularly use high concentrations of DEET for long periods of time.
  • Picaridin: This is an alternative to DEET and works just as well. The same guidelines for DEET apply to Picaridin.
  • Natural Alternatives: Many parents are hesitant to use such strong chemicals on their young children, which is understandable. Using natural alternatives will not be nearly as effective and will need to be reapplied hourly, but if your child has an allergy or sensitivity that doesn’t allow for DEET or Picaridin, then using a natural alternative is your best option! Using the oil of Lemon Eucalyptus has been shown to assist with repelling bugs. However, it has not been medically researched on children younger than three years old, so it is not recommended for babies.

Preventing bug bites is one thing, but preventing illnesses spread by mosquitoes and ticks is extremely important. With illnesses like Zika and Lyme disease, it is crucial that all family members use insect repellent in the form of spray, wipes, balm or a clip-on device.

Remember to always wear long pants and high socks, especially when hiking in tick-prone areas. You can even tuck your pant legs into your socks to further prevent ticks. Many companies have also developed netting that can fit over car seats, strollers and some carriers. Using multiple repellent “tactics” will ensure you and your children have a fantastic time enjoying Mother Nature! Stay safe and happy hiking!

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