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Ask the Pediatrician: Which insect repellent is best for children?

By Dr. Sophie J. Balk, American Academy of Pediatrics on

Published in Health & Fitness

Q: What kind of insect repellent should I buy for my children?

A: Warm weather means more kids are getting outside to play, hike and enjoy the fresh air with family and friends.

Warmer weather also means preventing insect bites.

Insect-transmitted illnesses include Lyme disease, West Nile disease, Zika and others from mosquito and tick bites.

One way to protect your child from biting insects is to use insect repellents.

When there's a possibility of getting a serious illness such as Lyme disease from an insect bite, make sure you choose repellent that is effective.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates and approves insect repellents for their safety and effectiveness. DEET is approved as a safe and effective repellent.

The concentration of DEET in a product indicates how long the product will be effective — a higher concentration works for a longer time. For example, 10% DEET provides protection for about 2 hours, and 30% DEET protects for about 5 hours. Concentrations of more than 50% DEET provide no added protection. You can choose the lowest concentration to provide protection for the among of time spent outside. For example, if you plan to be outside for one hour, you can choose 10% DEET.

DEET-containing repellents should not be harmful if parents follow directions on the label to use the product safely. DEET products can cause skin rashes especially when high concentrations are used, but these reactions are rare.

In addition to DEET, picaridin and other products are considered safe and effective by the EPA.

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