If you’re expecting, you’re probably spending quite a lot of time and energy focusing on what you should be doing to ensure a healthy pregnancy. While many things are out of our control when it comes to our health during pregnancy, there are many things we can be doing to keep things as on track as possible. And that includes finding a pregnancy-safe bug spray to protect yourself from mosquitos and avoid absorbing harmful chemicals.
In addition to eating and drinking all the right things—nutritious foods, prenatals, and, of course, non-alcoholic beverages—it’s also important to be mindful of what you put *on* your body. Yep—it’s not only what goes into your body that can have an affect on your growing baby. The products we use on our bodies eventually end up inside our bodies, which, by extension, also means that our developing babies are potentially affected by anything we use on our bodies, explains Canada-based naturopathic doctor Sarah Connors, ND.
“As a product is absorbed through the skin, it will usually end up in our blood stream and then get shared with a growing baby via the placenta and/or umbilical cord,” she says. “Keeping in mind that any products we use can end up getting shared with our unborn children makes it that much more important to be aware of the ingredients in that product.”
What to avoid in a bug spray
The short answer? DEET. On the laundry list of topical products to be mindful of is bug spray. Not only do you not want to deal with itchy and irritating mosquito bites while you’re pregnant, but you also want to avoid anything that mosquito may be carrying. Thus, bug spray can come in handy. The trouble with conventional bug sprays, however, is that many contain potentially harmful chemicals like DEET, an ingredient that may cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, burning of the eyes and difficulty breathing, along with other possible side effects, explains Dendy Engelman, MD, cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York City.
What to look for in a pregnancy-safe bug spray
When shopping for a bug spray, you're likely to be bombarded by brands making all sorts of claims. Here are some features experts recommend looking for to ensure a bug spray is pregnancy-safe.
A low percentage of DEET
While the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that DEET is safe for children and pregnant women, it’s still a wise idea to look for a repellent that contains just 20 to 30 percent DEET, or one that is DEET-free, according to Toronto-based naturopathic doctor Olivia Rose, ND. This may help reduce irritation or other unwanted side effects.
Lemon eucalyptus as a main ingredient
There are a number of essential oils that have been used or suggested for use as bug repellents over time, but currently the only one that has been approved by the EPA is Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD, according to Dr. Connors. “Some testing has shown that concentrations of 20 to 26 percent PMD may perform as well as 15 to 20 percent DEET against both mosquitoes and ticks,” she says. Although she adds, "PMD’s maximum protection time against mosquitoes and ticks is shorter than DEET’s," so make sure to reapply.
The type of application can vary as these ingredients may be available in sprays, wipes and lotions—and the best kind is really the one that you think you’ll be able to use. “If using a spray, it is best to avoid spraying your face directly, so when applying to the face, it is recommended to first spray the palm of the hand and then apply,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (MDCS) in New York.
The 7 best pregnancy-safe bug sprays
This organic bug spray is formulated specifically for babies, children and those with sensitive skin. And it’s safe for pregnant people, according to Dr. Connors. “The key ingredient that it contains is organic lemon eucalyptus oil, which is one of the few that has been shown to be effective, and all other oils used are also organic,” she says. Other gentle and natural ingredients that it includes to help ward off pesky pests include cedarwood, geranium, and peppermint.
Although it comes in a small spray bottle, this is enough to get you through summer and beyond, according to Dr. Connors. She is a fan of this natural bug spray because it contains eucalyptus lemon essential oil, is biodegradable, and non-toxic. “It’s considered safe for pets and children, and not mixed with any toxic chemicals,” she adds.
This insect and tick repellent is safe for the whole family and protects against disease-spreading mosquitoes and ticks. It’s also effective for up to 12 hours, according to Dr. Garshick. She’s a fan of the fact that it’s fragrance-free and how quickly it dries after application without leaving the skin feeling greasy. The key ingredient, picaridin, is considered to be safe and effective for pregnant folks, according to the EPA.
Dr. Engelman recommends this brand of bug spray because it also includes the EPA-suggested safe ingredient picaridin. “This spray utilizes picaridin instead of DEET to safely repel insects and has a lightweight feel,” she says. “It is also low-odor and dermatologist-tested so it’s less likely to lead to irritation.”
Another bug spray that Dr. Engelman recommends is the Repel® Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent. “This product is great because it is DEET-free and claims to repel insects—including disease-transmitting mosquitoes that pose an extra risk to pregnant women—for up to six hours.” It’s non-sticky and absorbs quickly into the skin.
This brand is the brainchild of married actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard who sell a myriad of baby- and pregnancy-friendly products. Their organic bug spray lives up to all the hype at such an affordable price. It’s lab-tested to repel against mosquitoes for up to five hours and contains hypoallergenic and non-irritating ingredients. It’s DEET-free and safe for babies, pets and pregnant people.
This family-owned brand makes a handful of organic and kid- and pregnancy-friendly products. Their bug spray is definitely one to try. It contains a botanical blend of Citronella, Rosemary and Lemongrass essential oils to naturally repel bugs away without causing harm or irritation to your body. Dr. Engelman is a fan because it is DEET-free, gluten-free, certified organic and free of synthetic chemicals or petroleum, making it a safe choice.
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