Some insect repellents may react with your child’s skin and cause a rash. Repellents can also cause irritation to the eyes and can be potentially fatal if swallowed. If you use insect repellent on your child, here are some guidelines:
Don’t use repellents on infants less than 2 months old. Instead, use mosquito netting over your infant carrier or stroller. If you are planning to be outside hiking or picnicking, or in an area with biting or stinging insects, protect your child by keeping her covered with long pants and sleeves and by using mosquito netting designed specifically for a stroller or infant carrier. Be sure the netting isn’t too long—your child could get tangled in it. (Related: Safe sunscreen tips for infants and children.)
Look for age restrictions on insect repellents. Oil of lemon eucalyptus, a plant-based repellant, for example, has been found to provide similar protection to low concentrations of deet, but should not be used on children under the age of three. If the repellant has an age restriction, it must be stated on the product. If you don’t see one, the EPA has not mandated one. (See our insect repellent Ratings report.)
How much deet? You can use repellent with 10 percent or more deet on skin or clothing, but you should not use a product with a concentration of more than 30 percent for your infant or child. Reapply only as often as recommended on the label.
Apply repellent carefully. Avoid your child’s eyes and mouth. Also avoid putting repellent in her hands because she can transfer it to her eyes or mouth.
Don’t apply too much. Your child doesn’t need to be saturated with it for it to work.
Where not to use insect repellent. Do not use deet under clothing, over cuts or wounds, or on irritated skin. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found deet to be safe when used according to the directions on the label. But be sure to wash your child with soap and water when she returns home.
Wash clothing after using repellent. If you have sprayed your child with repellent or sprayed in on his clothing, wash the clothes before letting him wear them again.
Keep insect repellents out of the reach of your children. When you have finished using a repellent, store it out of your child’s reach in a locked cabinet. (Learn more about keeping children safe from cleaning products.)