The 6 Best Mosquito Repellents For Pregnancy, According To OB … – Bustle

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Finding a mosquito repellent to use during pregnancy can feel like a daunting task, especially when you’re looking for optimal protection from Zika and West Nile viruses. That’s why Bustle reached out to Daniel Roshan, MD, FACOG, FACS, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine and Kimberly Langdon, MD, an OB-GYN with 19 years of clinic experience. According to Dr. Roshan, “DEET is the safest, most studied and most effective insect repellent available.” The best mosquito repellents for pregnancy contain DEET — or other CDC-approved insect repellents like picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) — to effectively ward off insects for anywhere between 2 to 12 hours. These repellents can be safely applied directly to the skin while you’re pregnant, and they come in various EPA-approved repellent concentrations and easy-to-use forms, including sprays, lotions, and wipes.
Dr. Daniele Roshan is a board-certified OB-GYN at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine in New York City. He is a fetal medicine specialist with expertise in high-risk pregnancies and chorionic villus sampling, as well as in providing pregnancy care to people faced with chronic disease. He earned his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, and received residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. He also completed a fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Dr. Kimberly Langdon is an Ohio-based medical advisory board member with Medzino. In addition to obstetrics, she specializes in gynecologic diseases and minimally invasive surgeries. Langdon earned her medical degree from Ohio State University College of Medicine and she completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State University Hospital. She delivered over 2,000 babies over the course of her career.
When it comes to choosing a mosquito repellent, DEET might have a bad rap, but Dr. Roshan explains, “There have been no studies to show adverse fetal outcomes when pregnant women use DEET containing insect repellent.” For long-lasting coverage, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends DEET concentrations of 20 to 30% for optimal safety during pregnancy. Lower concentrations of DEET will offer less protection from mosquitoes. According to the CDC, protection from products with DEET concentrations below 10% might only last one or two hours (but always check the label for the manufacturer’s specific instructions).
If you’re looking for a DEET-free mosquito repellent, the CDC notes that picaridin is a safe option. Picaridin is a synthetic compound derived from plants used to make pepper, and while it’s a newer type of repellent than DEET, studies have even shown that picaridin can work just as well as DEET, and the CDC recommends at least a 20% concentration. Dr. Roshan confirms that picaridin is “not a known teratogen when used appropriately.”
Botanical options are also available. Plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) is a CDC-approved repellent that is deemed safe for pregnancy, and according to Consumer Reports, a 30% concentration can provide about 5 hours of protection against mosquitos. Just note that while OLE is safe for adult use, it should not be used on children younger than 3 years old.
No bug repellent is 100% effective, though, so Dr. Langdon suggests using “adequate coverage by clothing, socks, long sleeves, [or] long pants” alongside your preferred repellent. She also notes that sprays and lotions are generally better than wearable repellents like clip-ons and bracelets because mosquitoes are “repelled spatially and by irritant (contact) methods.”
All the options below are for topical use, but the CDC advises to avoid spraying repellent on your face. And if you have any concerns or questions about applying mosquito repellent, it’s always best to consult with your doctor first.
Check out some of the best mosquito repellent sprays, lotions, and wipes available on Amazon.
With more than 29,000 reviews, this set of spray repellents is hugely popular on Amazon — and it’s a great value for the price. Its long-lasting formula has one of the highest DEET concentrations on this list, but it’s still within the CDC’s concentration recommendation for pregnancy.
Because of its high concentration of DEET, this option may have more of a potent scent than other choices — important to keep in mind if your pregnancy has made you more sensitive to smells. That said, it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a high-coverage repellent that can last for hours outdoors.
One reviewer wrote: “I used this in mexico while pregnant. I usually get eaten alive by mosquitos and bugs when I travel to the carribean and wanted to be extra safe this time with obvious concern of zika while pregnant. I spent 5 weeks in various parts of the yucatan and quintana roo on beaches and in cenotes. ( No nature hikes) Goes on smooth and dry, but still has the deet smell, but the smell is not overwhelming. Used during the day and at night and rarely got bitten. Just [remember] to reapply as directed.”
This long-lasting repellent lotion by Sawyer is made with a slow-release 20% DEET formula that lasts up to 11 hours. Reviewers have appreciated that it’s “scent-free” and “doesn’t leave you feeling greasy.” The sweat-proof repellent is formulated to stay put, and many reviewers have agreed that its time-release formula lasts “longer than others.” Plus, it’s designed to be used with sunscreen — another must for protecting sensitive skin during pregnancy.
One reviewer wrote: “This is an amazing product. Recently used it for travel to India. Used it on kids. Not a single bug/mosquito/insect bite throughout my travel. Was very worried before the travel but it worked like a charm. Its a very thick lotion and we used it in 110 F heat. It stays for long.Highly recommend it !!”
Formulated with picaridin, this quick-drying, scent-free repellent lacks the harsh aroma that DEET-based products can have and it can last up to 12 hours. One reviewer attested, “‘Zero scent’ is truly zero scent. It’s nice being able to go inside without stinking up the place.” Another shopper described it as “not too greasy.” All in all, it’s a good option to have on hand if you’re sensitive to the smell of DEET and want to try a picaridin product. It’s made in the U.S. and available in a range of bottle sizes and in multi-packs. And if you’d like to try a scented version, Ranger Ready has a collection of them, including Ranger Orange and Night Sky.
One reviewer wrote: “Friends, I live in New England,[…]I have tried many bug sprays, but some do not work, some are too toxic, some smell too strong. This product truly works even walking through swampy areas, and has no scent whatsoever. As an added bonus for anyone else who lives in this neck of the woods, we’re supporting a local business.”
If you’re looking for a mosquito repellent that’s travel-friendly and makes reapplication a snap, try these mosquito repellent wipes. They contain 15 wipes per pack, and they’re great for tossing in your purse, belt bag, or pocket for life on the go. They’re so convenient, in fact, that you may find yourself switching to wipes as your go-to bug repellent method.
Formulated with 30% DEET — the highest concentration of DEET on this list — these Repel wipes can provide protection up to 10 hours.
One reviewer wrote: “Being 4 [months] pregnant and Zika being a threat in our area, my family and I went to an outdoor wedding ceremony and reception that was by the water out in farmland. I wiped myself and my 1yr old son down with these while my husband used off spray. There were PLENTY of mosquitos. Everyone else seemed to be swatting away at bugs/mosquitos and were bitten. Even my husband got bitten through his sock…but my son and I did not get anything at all. Overall, very effective and convenient product!”
For those who are interested in a DEET-free option, this plant-based OLE mosquito repellent from Cutter is worth an “add to cart.” While the protection coverage is a bit shorter than other repellents on this list — with coverage clocking in at around 6 hours — it still keeps mosquito away. Plus, it comes with a lemon and eucalyptus scent that “smells like summer,” according to one reviewer. The non-greasy formula goes on easy without leaving a sticky residue behind.
One reviewer wrote: “This was a reorder because I found that it keeps the mosquitoes away when I’m outside. I like the fact that it’s Deet-free and uses natural ingredients. An added bonus is that an application lasts up to 6 hours.”
This Cutter repellent spray has a relatively low concentration of DEET at 7 %, but is great for short outings. While the manufacturer doesn’t specify exactly how long it can be expected to last, don’t expect this choice to protect you all day. Reviewers have estimated that they can go about two to three hours before they need to reapply. On the plus side, the repellent incorporates aloe and vitamin E to help soften skin, and one reviewer wrote that it “felt nice on my skin and [I] didn’t feel desperate for a shower as soon as I got inside.” The scent is also really mild when compared to many other DEET products, according to reviewers.
One reviewer wrote: “I need a mosquito repellent that has DEET, sadly, and this one has the least (7%), and also feels good on a hot day (when it’s not hot enough to keep the mosquitoes away). It’s the only DEET product I’ll let the little kids use at baseball.”
Studies referenced:
Larry Goodyer, Steven Schofield. (2018) Mosquito repellents for the traveller: does picaridin provide longer protection than DEET?, Journal of Travel Medicine, Volume 25, https://doi.org/10.1093/jtm/tay005
Chen, T., Burczynski, F. J., Miller, D. W., & Gu, X. (2010). Percutaneous permeation comparison of repellents picaridin and DEET in concurrent use with sunscreen oxybenzone from commercially available preparations. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21155391/
Dr. Daniel Roshan, MD, FACOG, FACS, Board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine in New York City
Dr. Kimberly Langdon, MD, Medical Advisory Board Member at Medzino
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