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Insect bites on holiday can make everyone’s stay uncomfortable – or depending on where you travel, even dangerous. Keeping the whole family protected from insects is crucial, but what is the best formula?
You might have heard some worrying stories about the ingredient DEET (or diethyltoluamide) and its possible negative effects on users’ health. In fact, many of those articles were inaccurate and DEET is still considered one of the most effective – and safest – insect repellent to use. The NHS recommends on its travel advice website that DEET can be used by all individuals over the age of 2 months, including pregnant women (unless known to be allergic). The key is applying it correctly to avoid inhalation or ingestion – spray it onto your own hand before applying it to little ones’ skin, and don’t apply it to kids’ hands.
However, if you want to stick to more natural ingredients and avoid the chemical harshness of DEET (it can also seriously damage non-natural fibres in your clothes), there are a number of products on the market.
Lemon Eucalyptus oil is a great natural alternative, and don’t forget that loose, long clothing and mosquito nets are among the most useful equipment in your fight against biting blighters.
The NHS also points out that although Citronella oil contains insect repellent properties and is often marketed against bites, its effectiveness is very short-lived – so make sure you don’t rely on it solely for effective protection.
Read on for our top repellent products for different ages:
1. Green Baby Mosquito patches, £14.95 (48 patches)
Age suitable for: All ages
We love these little patches, as they can be used for all ages – not like many of the other products on our list. They are little squares that are not applied directly to skin. Instead, you squeeze the patches to ‘activate’ the essential oils and ward off pesky mosquitos and other insects. The ingredients are citronella and lemon eucalyptus oils in pure form. Once activated, you can attach the patches to clothing, a cot or buggy. Best of all, they last up to 10 hours according to the brand.
Available from: Amazon and Vie Healthcare
2. Jungle Formula For Kids, £5.99 (125ml)
Age suitable for: 12 months+
The Jungle Formula range is very effective, from a widely trusted brand – its maximum strength formula is recommended by the Hospital of Tropical Diseases.
The brand has now brought out a kids’ version which is suitable for babies from 12 months. The light lotion doesn’t contain DEET and is specifically tested for kids, protecting your little one for up to 6 hours from mosquitos, midges, horseflies and ticks.
However, bear in mind that the formula is not really strong enough if you’re heading to countries with insect-borne diseases – you will have to reach for a stronger version for that (with 50% DEET strength), which is suitable from 3 years.
Available from: Amazon and Boots
3. Incognito Insect Repellent Spray, £10.99 (100ml)
Age suitable for: From infant
With its active ingredient of oil of lemon eucalyptus, Incognito is a good option for those wanting a kid-friendly, DEET-free recipe. The NHS travel advice website confirms that lemon eucalyptus can be just as effective as DEET, if for a shorter period.
When using this spray with a very young baby, the brand recommends spraying on mainly clothes and just sparingly on exposed skin. You can also get Incognito as a handy roll-on (£8.49 for 50ml), which might be easier to use with wriggly toddlers.
Available from: Boots and Holland and Barrett
4. The Bug Watch Kids’ Anti Mosquito Wristwear, £11
Age suitable for: 3+
This nifty piece of kit combines a cute armband with 30% mosquito-repellent lemon eucalyptus oil. Once opened, the BugBlock activates and forms a protective shield around the wearer, protecting them for up to 360 hours. It is also water resistant.
Due to its small parts, it is recommended only for kids from 3 years and up, but it’s a fantastic, fuss-free way to use the repellent benefits of this effective essential oil.
Available from: Amazon, Boots and Chemist.co.uk
5. GoTravel Mosquito Cot Net, £14.95
Age suitable for: From birth
Don’t forget that a mosquito net is still one of the best ways to protect against harmful insects while your little one is asleep – they’re ideal for babies, especially very young ones. Go for a travel mosquito net that is easy to install and snug, and make sure you check it regularly for holes.
You can also buy nets pre-impregnated with extra repellent.
Available from: Boots and Purple Turtle
6. Vie Healthcare Anti Mosquito Spray, £8
Age suitable for: From 3 months
This natural DEET-free formula is specifically designed to protect babies from bites. Using p-menthane-3,8-diol (synthesised from lemon eucalyptus), it promises effective protection for up to 6 hours, and as it’s made from all-natural, pleasant ingredients, it even smells nice.
Available from: Amazon and JoJo Maman Bébé
7. Avon Skin So Soft Original Dry Oil Body Spray, £3.50 (150ml)
Age suitable for: From 5 years
This spray is designed to soften your skin with the help of Jojoba oil, but many parents swear by its insect-fighting properties, too. It contains citronella oil, which is probably why it can help ward off bites, however, as mentioned before, the oil isn’t recognised as an official repellent.
Nonetheless, Skin So Soft gets recommended again and again on our MFM Forum, for kids as well as pregnant mamas. As one of our members raves, it “really seems to work – hubby was the only one who got bitten, and he forgot to put it on”. If you do want to use it on your kids, the brand recommends 5 years old as the minimum age.
Available from: Amazon and Avon
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