Are mosquito repellents safe for your children?

mosquito repellents
Mosquito repellents

Mosquito repellents have become a necessity these days. Mosquitoes might be tiny. But they are a big nuisance and can make your children sick. Repellents can protect children from their bites. But are the mosquito repellents safe? Won’t the chemical in them harm the kids too? Well, let’s check out.

Most popular mosquito repellents have one of these three active ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE).


DEET has been used in mosquito repellents since 1965. Over the years, there have been some reports of DEET causing rashes, skin irritation, and even seizures. But most of the serious reactions to DEET involved the drinking of the chemical or using it in other unsafe ways. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved DEET for people of all ages, including children. And the American Academy of Pediatrics considers insect repellents containing DEET safe for children older than 2 months.

Insect repellents carry DEET in varying strength. Some repellents might have only 10% DEET, others might have 30%. The higher concentration of DEET does not mean the mosquito repellent is more effective. It just means its effect will last for a longer duration. Using repellents with more than 30% DEET might not be safe for kids.


Picaridin is the second most common active ingredient found in insect repellents. It is an odorless synthetic chemical that resembles a compound found in peppers. Its use in bug repellents is relatively new. And it might lead to a few side effects like irritation in the eyes. It has not yet been studied as extensively as DEET, but it is generally considered safe for children.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus:

This is an oil extracted from the leaves of the Eucalyptus Citriodora tree. This oil contains a compound called para-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD) that can block the skin odor and prevent mosquito bites. That is why OLE is used in many insect repellents. These repellents are safe for children older than 3 years. But OLE’s effects on younger kids haven’t been fully tested yet. And experts don’t recommend direct applying of Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus on the skin.

Natural repellents:

Many parents don’t want to use chemical-based mosquito repellents on their children’s skin. They look for natural and chemical-free alternatives containing plant oils like citronella, lemongrass, peppermint, and cedarwood. These might be effective to an extent but need to be reapplied more.

How to use mosquito repellents on children?

Mosquito repellents can protect children from many diseases caused by bug bites. However, improper use of them can cause problems too. Here are the precautions you need to take for safe use of mosquito repellents:

  1. Avoid using repellent on infants younger than 2 months. Prevent the mosquito bites by using netting over the baby’s stroller when going out.
  2. Children younger than ten years should not apply the mosquito repellents themselves.
  3. Never spray mosquito repellents directly on your child’s face. Apply it on your hands first.
  4. Be careful that the repellent does not enter the child’s eyes or mouth.
  5. Only use the mosquito repellent on the skin not covered by clothes.
  6. Don’t put the repellent over injuries like cuts, wounds, skin rash.
  7. Don’t use more repellent than necessary. Using a DEET based repellent once a day is enough.
  8. Read the label of the repellent and follow all instructions carefully.
  9. Don’t spray the repellent in a closed area or near the food.
  10. Always wash your hands after applying the mosquito repellent on your child.
  11. When the child is back from outside and the mosquito repellent is no longer needed, wash it off.

Other precautions you can take to keep children safe from mosquito bites:

  1. Prevent mosquito breeding in your house. Get rid of standing water in your home, yard, or garden. Remove anything that can collect water and become a breeding ground of mosquitoes. This includes broken garden pots, birdbaths, unused tires, buckets, etc.
  2. If children are going out of home, dress them in long-sleeved shirts and long pants in light colors. This is especially important during dawn and dusk when the mosquitoes are most active, or when your children are going to an area where there might be many mosquitoes.
  3. Shoes and socks are better than sandals to prevent insect bites on feet.
  4. Tell your children to stay away from places like drains, garbage cans, etc. More mosquitoes hover around such places.
  5. Avoid use of perfumes, scented soaps, or hair sprays on children as the scent may attract insects.
  6. Use screens on doors and windows to keep the mosquitoes out of your home.

Mosquitoes carry dangerous diseases like Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. Other insects like ticks can also cause several health problems. So, it is important to keep children safe from bug bites. Careful use of mosquito repellents can keep your children protected from mosquitoes.