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Keep kids safe while keeping the bugs off

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Geri Jacobson,MD

Summer in Minnesota means the outdoors. The outdoors means mosquitoes. And mosquitoes mean bug spray. But depending on how old your children are, certain kinds of bug spray may not be appropriate.

Before heading out to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July, here are some rules to remember about some of the common repellents:


  • DEET is very effective and safe, if used properly, for babies and kids over 2 months of age.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends repellents containing between 10 percent DEET (reapply about every 2 hours) to 30 percent DEET (reapply about every 5 hours). Bug sprays with more than 30 percent DEET don’t offer any extra protection.
  • Products containing both sunscreen and DEET aren’t recommended because sunscreen needs to be reapplied more often than DEET.

Repellents made of essential oils

  • A number of repellents are made from essential oils. Examples include citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, and soybean. There is the potential for allergic reactions when using these products. So watch your kids after applying to make sure they don’t develop rashes, hives or irritated skin.
  • These kinds of bug spray should only be used for children 3 years and older. 
  • To keep the bugs off, these will need to be reapplied every two hours.

Regardless of what kind of repellent you are using, be mindful not to spray directly onto anyone’s face. Spray it on your hands first, and then rub it on your face. Don’t spray onto cuts, wounds or irritated skin either.

If you suspect your child skin is having a reaction to bug spray, wash it off with soap and water. If the repellent is swallowed, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.