Using Sunscreen and Insect Repellents Together Safely

Sunscreen and Sun Safety

Insect repellents can help reduce your babies risk of getting bit by mosquitoes and other bugs.
Insect repellents can help reduce your babies risk of getting bit by mosquitoes and other bugs. Vincent Iannelli, MD

When outside, unless you want to deal with miserable kids with sunburn and who is covered in bug bites, you have to protect them from both the sun and bugs.

Sunscreen with Insect Repellents

While most parents use a separate sunscreen and insect repellent, there are products that provide protection against both insect bites and sunburn, including:

  • Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Insect Repellent & Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  • Shop Badger Sunscreen Lotion Anti-Bug, SPF 34
  • Bull Frog Mosquito Coast Sunscreen, with Insect Repellent, SPF 30

Does a combination sunscreen and insect repellent provide good protection against both the sun and insect bites and stings?

While you can use a combination product to protect your children against both the sun and bugs, it may not be a good idea.

Why not?

Remember that you should reapply sunscreen every few hours, while you usually don't reapply an insect repellent often, or at all. Also, most experts think that insect repellents lower the SPF of sunscreens. And sunscreens may increase the absorption of DEET into a child's skin. So while a combo product might provide protection, it likely doesn't provide the best protection, unless your child is only going to be outside for a few hours.

They can be more convenient to use, though.

Still, the CDC states that "It is not recommended to use a single product that combines insect repellent containing DEET and sunscreen.

Repellent usually does not need to be reapplied as often as sunscreen."

Using Sunscreen and Insect Repellents Together Safely

If not using a combo product, it is usually best to apply your sunscreen first, and use a sunscreen with a high SPF, just in case the insect repellent does lower the SPF of your sunscreen.

After applying your sunscreen, following the manufacturer's instructions on the label for applying your insect repellent.

And while you should then reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours or sooner if your child is in the water, simply follow the insect repellent's recommendations to see if you need to reapply it again. In general, if your child is getting bitten by mosquitoes or other bugs, then you may need to reapply your insect repellent or consider using one that is stronger and more long lasting.

Sun and Bug Protection

In addition to using a sunscreen and insect repellent, there are other ways to protect your kids from the sun and from bugs, including:

  • UPF-rated sun protection clothing
  • permethrin-treated clothing
  • avoid the sun and seek shade during peak intensity times (10am to 4pm)
  • control insects around your home
  • use spatial insect repellents, such as mosquito coils, which control insects in a defined area

It is also important to know when insects are active in your community. If mosquitoes are active in the evening, after the sun has gone down, and you are out with your kids to avoid the sun, then you may only need to use an insect repellent and can skip the sunscreen.

On the other hand, if you are out during the day and there aren't any mosquitoes or other bugs around, then you may just need a sunscreen. Of course, if you are hiking, etc., or in another situation when both the sun and bugs could be a problem, then use both properly.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Ultraviolet Radiation: A Hazard to Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. March 2011, VOLUME 127 / ISSUE 3. p 588-597.

CDC. Insect Repellent Use and Safety. March 31, 2015

CDC Health Information for International Travel (2016 Yellow Book). Accessed November 2015.

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