Mosquitoes carrying the Zika-virus have spread across the Caribbean, making a good bug spray essential for many young families that travel. A Zika infection during pregnancy can cause severe birth defects, but just as troubling is the fact that there is no long-term information about how Zika impacts small children who contract the disease after birth.
We were surprised to learn that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using bug sprays with "DEET" as their active ingredient. Even more surprising is that the CDC says that children under 3 years old shouldn't use natural mosquito repellents that contain essential oils like lemon or eucalyptus. On the other hand, DEET sprays are safe and effective for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as for babies older than 2 months.
The amount of time that a DEET repellent remains effective depends on the percentage of DEET that the product contains. A concentration of 10% or less will last no more than 2 hours, but protection plateaus at around a 50% concentration. The CDC recommends using products with at least a 20% concentration (to ward off ticks), so we settled on 25% for our family.
There are DEET wipes and lotions available to help prevent children from inhaling a spray, but parents can also spray a mist into their hands, then apply it like a lotion. If you're using bug spray and sunscreen together, put your sunscreen on first. (Here is a guide to the best sunscreens for families.)
We found 77 bug repellents that contain 25% DEET and are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Below are the ones that are:
Available for sale on Amazon;
Reviewed at 4-stars or better; and
Verified using Fakespot and a manual review.
Pump Sprays (TSA-Friendly)
This pump spray smells like vanilla, isn't sticky and keeps mosquitos away, according to several Amazon customers. A few reviewers say the repellent wasn't effective.
This insect repellent works well and has an airplane-friendly pump bottle, according to several Amazon customers. Some reviewers say that their pump stopped working or leaked over time. Others say they had to reapply the repellent too often.
This pump spray is effective, but not long-lasting according to several Amazon customers. One reviewer cautions that the spray shouldn't be used near plastics because it can soften them.
Wipes (Useful for Babies and Small Children)
These insect repellent wipes are effective, non-sticky and great for air travel, according to several Amazon customers. One reviewer cautions not to let a wipe touch a plastic smartphone case.
Aerosol Sprays (Not Allowed on Airplanes)
This aerosol spray is a great value and works well, according to several Amazon customers. Some reviewers (even happy ones) say the repellent smells terrible and tastes awful if you accidentally get some in your mouth. A few customers complained of sticky skin after use.
3M's aerosol insect repellent is long-lasting and effective, according to several Amazon customers. Reviewers have mixed feelings about the smell. Buyer beware: Some customers say they received a defective product and weren't allowed to return it because of shipping restrictions.
This aerosol spray is effective at keeping mosquitoes away, according so several Amazon customers, but some say that it has a strong insecticide smell. A few reviewers say it makes skin feel sticky.
This aerosol spray is effective and doesn't feel sticky or oily on skin, according to several Amazon customers. Some reviewers caution that the spray stains clothing; others don't like the smell. This repellent is also available in a 2-pack, which is often the better deal (go figure).
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