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Using Bug Killers and Repellents During Pregnancy

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Can I Use Bug Sprays During Pregnancy?

Some, yes; others, no. Bug sprays can include pesticides, insecticides, and repellents:

  • A pesticide is a broad term for all substances that kill or repel any pest.
  • An insecticide is a type of pesticide that specifically kills insects.
  • A repellent doesn’t kill insects but does help keep them away from people.

Some pesticides can harm a growing fetus. But many insect repellents are considered safe to use during pregnancy. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has studied their effectiveness and safety, and recommends using a repellent with one of these active ingredients:

  • DEET
  • picaridin
  • IR3535
  • oil of lemon eucalyptus
  • para-menthane-diol

Generally, health care providers advise pregnant women to use EPA-recommended insect repellents because they help protect against bites from mosquitoes that may carry serious viruses. If you use a repellent, do not use more than you need to, and wash it off when you get indoors.

What Else Can Help Prevent Bug Bites?

Other ways to protect against insect bites:

  • Avoid going outdoors when insects such as mosquitoes are most actively biting (usually dusk and dawn).
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors to reduce the amount of exposed skin that insects can bite.
  • Keep doors and windows closed or with tight-fitting screens with no holes so insects can't enter the house.

Tips to Minimize Your Pesticide Exposure

If you must work with pesticides or your home or garden must be treated, try to reduce your exposure to the chemicals. You can:

  • Ask someone else to apply them.
  • If pesticides are sprayed outside:
    • Close all windows and turn off air-conditioning units and window fans to prevent the fumes from entering your home.
    • Wear rubber gloves when gardening outside where pesticides have been used.
    • Have your water supply tested regularly if you have well water and use pesticides, fertilizers, or weed killers.
  • If pesticides are used indoors:
    • Remove utensils, food, and dishes from areas where the chemicals will be used.
    • Stay away from the treated area during the application and after it's finished for as long as specified on the product label.
    • After use, have someone else wash any treated area where food is prepared or served.
Date reviewed: January 2023