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Dad using bug spray on his son.

5 Safe Bug Sprays for Families

no smell, no grease, no mosquitos

Mosquitos obviously didn’t get the memo about social distancing. But sometimes I don’t know what’s worse: swatting and itching, or being smothered by a sticky, smelly cloud of DEET. Besides, DEET can damage synthetic materials—like your outdoor clothing—and be toxic at high levels.

Spraying your kiddo with a low concentration of DEET (30% or less) is unlikely to be harmful if you follow the instructions, but if you’re looking for a less smelly, less sticky alternative that will help protect you and your family from mosquito-borne illnesses, here are five safe bug sprays for kids and families:

Bug Spray With Picaridin

Picaridin works just about as well as DEET—without the grease, the smell or the potential to dissolve your gear. Like DEET, it’s a synthetic chemical, but so far no harmful effects have been found. I personally can vouch for Sawyer’s 20% picaridin spray, which we put to the test in the swampy woods of southeast Texas. It was up for the task.

Sawyer //  20% Picaridin Insect Repellent Spray

Bug Sprays With Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

This is the only plant-based active ingredient endorsed by the CDC, because it has proven effective in studies—in fact, Consumer Reports found that Repel’s formula (below) can hang with the DEET sprays. Be sure to use as directed, though; the CDC doesn’t recommend oil of lemon eucalyptus for kids younger than 3.

Repel // Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

Murphy’s Naturals // Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray

Bug Sprays With Lavender

Confession: I was a lavender skeptic, because studies and product tests don’t seem to support these insect sprays. But I received a bottle of lavender mosquito spray for Christmas, and to my surprise and delight, it has saved me a lot of itching this spring. I’ve received one (one!) bite, and mosquitos have certainly been on the prowl. So your mileage may vary, but I’m a believer.

Several Texas lavender farms sell insect repellent, including these two:

Lavender Ridge Farms //  Bug Off! All Natural Insect Repellent
Ingredients: Lavender, cedarwood, lemongrass, rosemary

Miller Creek // Lavender Bug Me Not
Ingredients: Witch hazel, citronella, lemon eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint

Do you have a favorite bug spray that works for you and the kids, minus the annoying DEET? Tell us at editorial@dfwchild.com.

Image courtesy of iStock.