Spring is in the air and we will soon see families and children enjoying time outdoors, in backyards, and in the parks. One thing that can spoil this picture are the annoying biting insects and mosquitoes. I wanted to know what the experts say about the safety of insect repellents on small children, and I was surprised to find out that deet is not as bad as I had thought.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that insect repellents containing deet are safe for children as young as 2 months. Bug repellents with deet come in varying strengths – some contain up to 30-percent deet. A higher concentration of deet does not mean a product is stronger, only that it lasts longer.
Another ingredient similar to deet in some repellants is Picaridin, which has been used in European countries for 10 years and is becoming more popular in products available in the U.S. There are also natural repellants made with oils such as lemongrass and citronella. Along with repellants, parents and caregivers can prevent insect bites by dressing children in long sleeve clothes and socks and shoes. It is suggested that parents avoid products that combine sunscreen and insect repellant. While it is good to reapply sunscreen often, it is not recommended to reapply the insect repellants.
Parent’s Magazine highlights many of the products you can buy in their Ultimate Guide to Bug Repellant for Kids, with specific application information for each product. Check out what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says about Insect Repellant Use and Safety in Children. It is always a good idea to ask your trusted pediatrician what they would recommend for your child. The Center For Disease Control also has recommendations for Insect Repellant Use and Safety.
There are so many positive reasons to get children outdoors to play and explore. Be informed on how you can prevent insect bites from scratching your plans.
LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATION | THE LEARNING CHILD
Peer Reviewed by Sarah Paulos, Extension Educator, The Learning Child
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