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How to Prevent Mosquito Bites for Babies and Toddlers without DEET

stroller and car seat with mosquito net
Just one of 11 DEET-free ways to help prevent mosquito bites on your next vacation.

Chances are you have enough other things to worry about these days, so keeping mosquitos at bay — and off your bébé — during your vacation shouldn’t be one of them.

For those of you planning a family camping trip or travel to other mosquito-friendly destinations, here is a timely excerpt from Chapter 8: Health “Ensurance” in Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Travel with Your Baby, Toddler and Preschooler.

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Eleven DEET-Free Ways to Help Prevent Mosquito Bites

1. Avoid using scented shampoos or lotions on your child—or yourself, as sweet fragrances attract mosquitoes.

2. Dress yourself and your child in light, plain-colored attire as bright colors attract mosquitoes—and some wasps including yellow jackets. (Also keep this in mind as you choose toys and gear to bring along.)

3. Use mosquito nets designed to fit around strollers and infant car seats. Some framed backpack carriers may also be used with bug nets.

4. Find out which time of year, or season, mosquitoes are least problematic at your destination and try to visit at that time (eg. is late summer best because the creek has dried up, or is it worse, because the creek has partially dried, leaving standing pools of water?).

5. When camping, try to choose a site as far away from still or slow-moving bodies of water as possible. You’ll have far fewer mosquitoes in your camp, making it much more pleasant to enjoy that campfire.

6. In severe mosquito zones, look for air-conditioned lodgings where mosquitoes are less likely to penetrate your sleeping quarters,

7. Where air conditioning is not available but mosquitoes are abundant, ask and confirm with hotels whether there are bed nets for guests.

8. Have the entire family take cool showers or baths after a hot afternoon. Since mosquitoes can be drawn to skin’s heat, scent, and perspiration, you’ll be much less enticing when they come out at dusk.

DEET-free insect repellent that works for the whole family.
DEET-free insect repellent that works for the whole family.

9. Use a soybean oil-based or other naturally derived mosquito repellent, such as Bite Blocker and those listed on pg. 156.

10. Buy clothing with built-in insect repellent that is safe to skin and can survive a lifetime of trips through the washing machine (or create your own—see next tip). You can find Insect Shield clothing available in baby-sized leggings, parent-sized shirts, sun hats and more from several outdoor brands. Most Insect Shield clothing will remain effective through 70 washings.

11. Treat exteriors of gear, tent, jackets, hats, and more with permethrin, which can provide additional insect repellent from items near you and your family. Permethrin repels mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects, is the active ingredient used in Insect Shield clothing and, is used to treat bed nets in malaria-risk zones (it is also used in lice shampoos for kids and flea dips for dogs). Unlike repellents used on skin, it will remain effective through your entire trip provided you don’t send treated garments on more than six trips through the washing machine (if so, consider Insect Shield clothing). Always apply Permethrin in advance of your trip, outdoors, with great care in accordance with the instructions.

For more tips on “Managing Mosquitoes,” see Chapter 8 of Travels with Baby, including safety concerns & guidelines for using DEET-containing products on babies and young children.

You might also be interested in this post by Michele Petersen: 12 ways to Protect Yourself from Zika, Chikungunya or Dengue Virus, and these recommendations:

DEET-free mosquito repellent wipes that work for the whole family

Before you go: Tips for camping with a baby or toddler

Insect repellent clothing for babies and todddlers

The ultimate travel pants for mom (with InsectShield)

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Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby 

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Curious about this content? See my editorial content disclosure.  Posted Feb 2016, updated July 2022.