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BUG OFF! Best DIY Natural Repellents for Moms, Kids, Pets, and the Rest of the World

By Aela Mass |

The warmer weather is upon us, and with it comes quite possibly one of its only drawbacks: BUGS. While some bugs are fun for kids to catch and are pretty to look at, like fireflies and ladybugs, others are just down-right nuisances, especially mosquitoes and ticks. So what’s the best way to keep these critters away without harming your family’s health? It’s not with that can of DEET-laden bug spray.

According to Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohammed Abou Donia, DEET should never be used on an infant because “their skin is too thin to provide an adequate barrier against absorption, and their systems cannot metabolize drugs and chemicals as well as an older child or an adult.” Abou Donia further warns that DEET-containing products should never be used with medications – even something as common as an antihistamine – because of the risk of toxic and long-term side effects, like destruction of brain cells, muscle coordination, memory loss, and joint pain. YIKES!

So skip the chemicals this season and try making one of these very simple, natural, and safe bug repellents. All you need is a kitchen, a few ingredients from the store, and a couple of minutes to make these oh-so easy bugs-be-gone potions. I even included a few plants to add to your yard that help keep the bugs at bay – and your family

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two moms make your own DEET free bug repellent safe for baby

Citrus tick repellent

Oh, delicious summer citrus, how we love thee... To make a citrus tick repellent, boil 2 cups of water and add the slices of 2 citrus fruits – whatever you prefer or have in the kitchen. Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are detested by ticks, so any will work for this mixture. After it has boiled for a few minutes, let it simmer for about an hour. Strain the liquid and pour into a spray bottle. It can be used on your skin and on your pet!
Read more here
Photo: 123RF Stock Photos

Don’t have the time (every moment is precious!) to make your own chemical-free bug repellent, but still want to keep DEET away from the little ones? Not to worry, check out these safer alternatives that you can pick up ready-for-use at the store or online.

Link to Duke University Medical Center source

Main Photo: 123RF Stock Photos

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About Aela Mass


Aela Mass

Aela Mass is a lesbian writer and editor living the dream on Martha's Vineyard with her wife, Sara, and their dog, Darla. She miscarried her twins at 17 weeks and has undergone numerous IVF, FET, and IUI cycles. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post among other publications. For more of her work, visit her blog Two Moms Make a Right. Read bio and latest posts → Read Aela's latest posts →

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3 thoughts on “BUG OFF! Best DIY Natural Repellents for Moms, Kids, Pets, and the Rest of the World

  1. Melissa says:

    This is a great article, and very helpful. But, I would caution against clove oil since I have always read that it can be dangerous for pregnant ladies to ingest it. I’m not sure about topical, but I know I always manage to get a little of everything topical on my lips. Other oils for pregnant ladies to avoid include:

    clary sage
    lemon balm
    st. johns wort

    (Source: Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs) (An AMAZING book, btw)

  2. aelahmass says:

    Good point, Melissa! Yes, pregnant women should not ingest clove anything during their first trimester. And while there isn’t any evidence suggesting that clove oil is dangerous topically, you make a good point about hand-to-mouth contact. Also, thanks for sharing the list :)

  3. Linda says:

    I use the Repel Lemon Eucalyptus product and love it! I was curious why the EPA warns against using Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) on children younger than three, so I contacted a woman who oversees the sales of OLE in the US to find out. She explained that the EPA determined Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus IS safe to use on children without restriction (and in fact it has been sold throughout Europe for more than 10 years under the Mosi-guard brand to kids over the age of 3 months with no reported problems). The only reason that the label on the US product says it shouldn’t be used on children younger than three is because of decision by New York’s authorities. They feel that in the absence of additional studies that the company has not yet conducted and would prefer to avoid given the ethics of unnecessary animal testing, in order for the product to be registered in New York this restriction must be included on the label. If it is required by one state, because of national distribution channels, it effectively must be on the label for all states. Seems unfair but there you have it. Anyway, the woman I contacted has a 17-month old and uses it on him regularly to combat the Vermont black flies, so I feel very confident in its safety for my own kids.

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