How to Use Insect Repellent Safely on Kids

How to Use Insect Repellent Safely on Kids

Did you know that August 20th is World Mosquito Day? At first glance, it may seem odd to dedicate a day to an insect that surely tops the list of “World’s Most Annoying Bug.” However, the day isn’t about celebrating skeeters … it’s also the day that commemorates when Sir Ronald Ross discovered that female mosquitoes transmit malaria 一 and how you can protect your family against mosquito-borne illnesses.

Below, we share our top do’s and don'ts for using bug repellent safely around children.

Do’s and Don’ts Using Insect Repellent on Kids

When it comes to bug sprays, there’s no shortage of options. But how do you know what’s safe for kids? Here are some tips for selecting 一 and applying 一 bug sprays on kids.


  • Read the label and always follow all directions carefully.
  • Select bug repellent in non-pressurized cans. Instead use sticks, lotions, or unpressurized sprays. (Aerosol cans aren’t good for the environment and are more likely that you or your child inhale the spray droplets.)
  • Only apply bug spray on exposed skin or on clothing. There’s no need to apply it on skin that’s covered up by clothing. 
  • Use non-pressurized sprays only in well-ventilated areas.
  • Apply bug repellent on young children. 
  • Supervise older children if they are applying their own spray, lotion, etc.
  • Wash your children's exposed skin when you come back inside.
  • Wash clothing that had bug spray on it before wearing the clothing again.
  • Always keep repellents out of young children's reach.


  • Never apply any type of bug repellent to infants 8 weeks old or younger, per the American Academy of Pediatricians’ recommendations. Instead, protect babies from bug bites by using mosquito netting over baby carriers or strollers if spending time in a mosquito-heavy area.
  • Refrain from putting bug repellent on children's hands to reduce unintentional swallowing (or rubbing it in their eyes).
  • Avoid aerosols or any sprays that can cause breathing issues.
  • If you use non-pressurized spray, do not spray it directly on your or your child’s face. Instead, spray a little on your hands first and then rub it on your child's face.
  • Never apply bug repellent on open wounds, cuts, or irritated skin (eczema included).
  • Avoid products that combine DEET with sunscreen (reapplying sunscreen can overexposure you to DEET)

Is DEET safe? The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend any bug sprays for children under two months of age. For older children, they do not recommend using any product with over 30% DEET. If you do use DEET, always follow the instructions and do not overapply the product.  If your child has a skin reaction to any type of bug spray or lotion, call your child’s doctor, or in the case of accidental ingestion, call Poison Help.

Although the EPA and CDC attest that DEET is safe (when used correctly), many parents prefer to use more natural solutions.  

How to Use Insect Repellent Safely on Kids

Looking for Natural Options

Although natural options don’t last as long as DEET, you can reapply the more natural options for protection. "Natural" insect-repellent ingredients are often plant-based and include:

  • Citronella (Cymobopogon nardus)
  • Geranium
  • Peppermint 
  • Lemon eucalyptus  (Eucalyptus citriodora or Corymbia citriodora

As always, follow all instructions on the product that you’ve selected. Some essential oils are not safe for children under the age of two. 

Natural options are available in non-pressurized sprays, roll-on oil blends, and candles.

How to Use Insect Repellent Safely on Kids

Other Ways to Reduce Bug Bites

Even if you can’t use bug sprays, there are many ways to help reduce bug bites. If possible, avoid heavily infested areas, such as camping or picnicking near stagnant water. For babies and children who can’t wear bug spray, protect them with clothing. Keeping your skin covered with light colored clothing 一 mosquitoes are more attracted to dark colors 一 can help reduce the number of bug bites.

For babies who may be napping outside, use bug netting. There are many options including nets for playpens and strollers. 

If you’re camping, keep your tent door shut, avoid wearing floral perfume, and keep a campfire going. Bugs don’t like the smoke or fire! This is the perfect excuse to whip up a batch of s’mores!

And finally, spend a few minutes on National Mosquito Day teaching your kids about mosquitoes. You can teach them about bug bite safety, where mosquitoes live, and how bugs play a role in nature’s life cycle. Bats, birds, fish, frogs, dragonflies, and turtles all eat mosquitoes. So, it turns out that these annoying bugs do have a purpose!

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