Insect Repellent

Posted on Jun 3, 2013

Mosquitos are out in force already and I thought it would be good to review the use of insect repellent on kids…

There are MANY choices in insect repellents on the store shelves, but here I’ll review the most common active ingredients that you’ll find.

DEET: Safe and effective if used appropriately. It can be applied to skin or clothing. It’s available in formulations containing concentrations of 5%-100%. The AAP supports the use of DEET in concentrations up to 30% in children down to the age of 2-months, but cautions against the use in infants younger than 2-months. DEET can be damaging to plastics on eyeglasses, and some synthetic fibers such as spandex or rayon.

Picaridin: A plant derived compound that is effective against mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, and flies. It is available in concentrations of 7%, 15%, and 20%. All concentrations are safe to use on children’s skin and it does not damage fabric or plastic.

Permethrin: Not to be used on the skin, but is available in sprays to treat clothing and mosquito nets.

Products derived from natural materials, such as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus seem to be fairly effective as insect repellents but are NOT safe in kids younger than age 3 years. Products containing citronella are inferior to DEET or Picaridin, and data for use in children is limited…

Tips for Using Repellents Safely (from the AAP)


  • Read the label and follow all directions and precautions.
  • Only apply insect repellents on the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin. Note: Permethrin-containing products should not be applied to skin.
  • Spray repellents in open areas to avoid breathing them in.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover your child’s clothing and exposed skin. Using more doesn’t make the repellent more effective. Avoid reapplying unless needed.
  • Help apply insect repellent on young children. Supervise older children when using these products.
  • Wash your children’s skin with soap and water to remove any repellent when they return indoors, and wash their clothing before they wear it again.


  • Never apply insect repellent to children younger than 2 months.
  • Never spray insect repellent directly onto your child’s face. Instead, spray a little on your hands first and then rub it on your child’s face. Avoid the eyes and mouth.
  • Do not spray insect repellent on cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Do not use products that combine DEET with sunscreen. The DEET may make the sun protection factor (SPF) less effective. These products can overexpose your child to DEET because the sunscreen needs to be reapplied often.

For more info see