Mosquitoes and Kids – Make them Stop!

 

It seems like every few weeks I get a well meaning email forward that goes something like this –

Wow, who knew!  I just heard from my friend that she uses Johnson’s Creamy Baby Oil to keep mosquitoes from biting her kids.  She says she put it on her kids and not one mosquito bite!!!! You could see them fly around, but not one landed on them! Just thought I would let all you mommies know!! Plus it smells great and has no chemicals:) -Works for Adults too!!

Dumb emails like this perfectly demonstrate the great paradox of the internet.  Someone can send out garbage like this and all of a sudden it reaches a massive number of people and becomes “fact”.  Yet with the same ease, all I have to do is Google “Johnson’s Baby Creamy Oil” and the very first result takes me to Johnson’s OWN webpage.  On that webpage is a list of ingredients, which I have copied and pasted for you below.

Water, Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Cocoglycerides, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Dimethicone, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Carbomer, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Mineral Oil, Tetrasodium EDTA, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter Extract, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Glyceryl Oleate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf

By “plus it smells great and has no chemicals :)”  the original author of the email must have meant “plus it smells great and has no more than 12 chemicals :)”  Come on people!

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why people keep coming up with fantastical solutions to keep mosquitoes off their kids.  What the hell is wrong with plain old DEET?  I understand that there are some potential issues with its safety, but many of those are unfounded, or people are confusing DEET with DDT.  I know it is trendy to doubt authority, but the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC support its use in kids. The Environmental Protection Agency has run studies of their own and tend to agree that DEET is safe and effective when used as a dermally applied insect repellent.  DEET has a very long history of safe use…when used as directed!  That being said, our scientific understanding of the world is always growing. The EPA is currently testing DEET as a possible endocrine disruptor, which does raise some concern, but soy is a known endocrine disruptor and is in everything!  Time will tell.  For now though, I am cool with the data available (Sasquatch Dad personally prefers Picaridin, although this is due to it’s non-greasy/non-smelly/non-melty nature rather than concerns over the safety of DEET).

Another big thing to think about with DEET (and Picaridin) – they aren’t just for mosquitoes.  They also repel ticks, which at least in the United States are a greater cause of concern.  Many folk remedies (assuming they do work for mosquitoes) may do nothing to prevent being bitten by other insects.

This is what the AAP says about using DEET on your little one this summer –

  • Use insect repellents containing DEET when needed to prevent insect-related diseases. Ticks can transmit Lyme Disease, and mosquitoes can transmit West Nile, Chikungunya Virus and other viruses.
  • The current AAP and CDC recommendation for children older than 2 months of age is to use 10% to 30% DEET. DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age.
  • The effectiveness is similar for 10% to 30% DEET but the duration of effect varies. Ten percent DEET provides protection for about 2 hours, and 30% protects for about 5 hours. Choose the lowest concentration that will provide the required length of coverage.
  • The concentration of DEET varies significantly from product to product, so read the label of any product you purchase. Children should wash off repellents when they return indoors.
  • When outside in the evenings or other times when there are a lot of mosquitoes present, cover up with long sleeved shirts, pants and socks to prevent bites.
  • Combination sunscreen/insect repellent products should be avoided because sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, but the insect repellent should not be reapplied.

If you are still on the fence about using DEET, there are a few alternatives that have some efficacy data and history of safety behind them.  The first that comes to mind is Picaridin (mentioned earlier as Sasquatch Dad’s #1 choice for insect repellent).

Picaridin is a man-made “plant based” chemical that has been available in Europe since 1998 and the US since 2005.  It has a good history of safety and efficacy (though not as long or robust as DEET’s) and doesn’t have the frightening (and expensive!) tendency to melt some materials that DEET does.  It is also relatively non-greasy.  The AAP and CDC don’t stand behind it for use in kids, but that is almost certainly because of a lack of safety data when compared to DEET.  Baby Squatch has used Picaridin on numerous occasions without incident.

There are also a few essential plant oils (peppermint, lemongrass, citronella, soybean) that apparently work well, however I cannot vouch for their effectiveness as I have never used them on Baby Squatch.  According to online sources, the main issue with essential oils is that they do not last nearly as long as DEET or Picaridin, and may be less effective at repelling ticks.

If you want a more in depth look at the insect repellents mentioned above, REI has a great breakdown here.

When the bugs start flying this spring and summer, Sasquatch Dad will be covering Baby Squatch with a Picaridin containing product (applied as directed, of course), and dressing him in long sleeves and pants when the skeeters blot out the sun.  Even though not directly recommended by the AAP, I feel it is only a matter of time before they give Picaridin the official go-ahead (it was mentioned in the AAP’s 2015 summer safety tips as an alternative to DEET!).  Picaridin’s non-greasy nature, it’s lack of affinity for melting certain synthetic materials and it’s fairly long history of safety make it the insect repellent of choice for the Sasquatch Family.

Remember – if you ever have any serious concerns about using any product on/with/in your little ones, the best source isn’t the internet – it’s the pediatrician!

-Sasquatch Dad

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