I want to protect my son from mosquito bites, but I’m worried about slathering him with repellent that has DEET. Will that cause health problems down the line?
Insect repellents containing DEET have been tested and approved as safe for kids, but you should take some precautions with them.
Choose a repellent with no more than 10% to 30% concentration of DEET (look for N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide on the label). Use lower concentrations if kids will be outside only for an hour or two. If they're outside longer, consider using a repellent with a higher concentration of DEET. (The higher concentration means that it will last longer.)
Generally, repellent with DEET should not be applied more than once a day, and is not recommended for babies younger than 2 months old.
DEET can be used on exposed skin, as well as clothing, socks, and shoes, but should not be used on the face, under clothing, on cuts or irritated skin, or on the hands of young children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that repellents containing the ingredients picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus also can protect against mosquitoes:
Whatever repellent you choose, check the list of active ingredients to make sure that one of these effective chemicals is on the list, and follow the directions carefully.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014
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