This mozzie season has been a big one with the re-emergence of the deadly Murray Valley Encephalitis, Japanese Encephalitis and more cases of other diseases like Ross River than usual. Mosquito borne disease pose a very real risk to people of all ages, but especially babies. Insect repellents are one of the most effective ways to protect against mosquito borne diseases, but is it safe to put insect repellent on babies?
What type of insect repellent can you use on babies?
The type of repellent that is safe to use on babies depends on their age and the manufacturer's safety directions:
- Most repellents are not recommended for use on babies under 12 months of age
- No repellent is safe to apply directly to babies under 3 months of age
The majority of repellents on the market in Australia contain DEET. There are no DEET-based repellents in Australia that recommend their products for use under 12 months of age. Some health authorities advise that 10% DEET formulations can be applied sparingly under 12 months but it must be washed off immediately after returning back inside and should not be used on large areas of skin for extended periods of time. There are very few 10% formulations available in Australia. Furthermore, DEET is a harsh ingredient which can cause skin irritations, especially for babies, and will also melt plastics and nylon fabrics (including pram liners) if applied directly.
A newer repellent ingredient is Picaridin. Picaridin is not as harsh as DEET but should not be applied to babies under 12 months of age. Like DEET, Picaridin should be washed off immediately after returning back inside.
Most natural insect repellents contain citronella or other strong essential oils so using these insect repellents on babies under 12 months is not recommended.
Good Riddance Sensitive Insect Repellent is the only insect repellent in Australia specifically developed for babies from 3 months of age.
What is the best insect repellent for a baby?
For babies under 12 months, Good Riddance Sensitive Insect Repellent is one of the few products available in Australia that is safe to apply directly to their skin. Good Riddance Sensitive is free from DEET, Picaridin and citronella, instead using baby-safe bug repelling essential oils to effectively protect against mosquitoes, midges and sandflies. Meanwhile, the nourishing moisturiser base is perfect for sensitive skin and babies. The moisturiser base also helps to hold the scent on your skin for longer than a spray, offering you more effective, longer lasting protection than other natural insect repellents.
Good Riddance Sensitive was developed in Darwin and tested in the tropics so it has certainly been put through its paces when it comes to the mozzies! In clinical trials, Good Riddance Sensitive offered a high level of protection against the mosquitoes and was more effective against the midges than an 80% DEET product.
How to ensure a repellent will keep your baby safe
In Australia, insect repellents are regulated by the APVMA. This government body is in charge of ensuring that the repellents available on the market are both effective and safe when applied as directed.
To achieve registration, insect repellents must undergo strict clinical trials to prove that they are effective at repelling the insects they say they do.
You can identify whether a product has undergone clinical trials and APVMA registration by looking for an APVMA registration or approval number on the packaging.
There are several products available in Australia which claim to repel mosquitoes but have not undergone any clinical trials or APVMA registration. Furthermore, they have not undergone any safety assessment to ensure they are suitable for babies.
How to apply insect repellent to a baby
Once you have chosen a suitable insect repellent, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you're applying insect repellent on babies.
- Do a patch test first
- Choose creams or roll on products instead of sprays to minimise risk of inhalation
- Read and follow the safety directions on the label and avoid applying on children younger than the label recommends
- If using a spray, apply the repellent to your own hands first before rubbing onto your baby's skin
- Only apply insect repellent to their exposed skin, do not apply under clothing
- Avoid applying to their hands and near their mouth and eyes
- Re-apply after swimming
How to keep mosquitoes away from babies under 3 months
Babies under 3 months of age have very delicate skin as their skin barrier is still developing. Therefore, it is not recommended that any insect repellents are applied directly to their skin. To keep babies under 3 months of age safe from mosquito borne diseases, you will need to rely on physical barriers. This includes:
- Dress them in long sleeved, light coloured clothing. Baby coveralls or rompers which cover the ankles and feet are a great option
- Use mosquito netting and fans over prams and cribs
- Checking for and repairing any holes in your fly screens
- Avoid going outside during peak mozzie periods (dawn and dusk)
- Tip out any stagnant water sources around your home to prevent mosquitoes from breeding
Summer might be over but the threat of mosquito borne diseases is still lingering so it's important to remain vigilant and prevent mosquito bites. Preventing mosquito bites is the only way to protect against many of the diseases that mosquitoes spread, including the deadly Murray Valley Encephalitis which has made a resurgence for the first time in 11 years. Unfortunately 3 people have now died from Murray Valley Encephalitis in Victoria in the last month. This has prompted stronger safety advice for schools in northern Victoria with hundreds being advised to spray for mosquitoes and ensure children have access to repellent in the playground. For protection that covers the whole family, check out the Good Riddance Family Pack.
This mozzie season has been a big one with the re-emergence of the deadly Murray Valley Encephalitis, Japanese Encephalitis and more cases of other diseases like Ross River than usual. Mosquito borne disease pose a very real risk to people of all ages, but especially babies. Insect repellents are one of the most effective ways […]