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June 26, 2019
By Sam Smith , M.D.
Pediatricians frequently field questions from parents who want to know if it's safe to use insect repellent on their children. Honestly, a repellent with DEET is one of the only prevention methods proven to deter biting bugs. Research backs up that the stronger the DEET concentration in an insect repellent, the longer it lasts and more effective it is.
But it's essential to be careful about how you use insect repellent. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the highest concentration of DEET used on children should be 30 percent. They also suggest you only use a repellent if your child is over 2 months old.
There are other repellents available, including those that use picaridin, but research indicates they're much less effective than DEET.
Some families also prefer natural alternatives like essential oils found in citronella and eucalyptus. And don't forget good old-fashioned Skin So Soft. All of these are options, but they may last only a few hours, require reapplication and still won't prevent those creepy crawlers from infiltrating your patio time.
There are some critical guidelines for families looking to fend off insects with repellents:
There are some simple actions your family can take to reduce the likelihood of coming in contact with disease-transmitting insects, as well. The best strategy is to avoid areas that attract them – so stay away from stagnant warm water, ranging from puddles to dog bowls. It may also be a good idea to avoid garbage cans, compost piles and flower beds. Dressing in long pants and sleeves, as well as heavy-duty socks and sturdy shoes, can also protect your child from biting insects.
And while it's not a prevention method, it is important to examine your child's skin after he or she has spent a day playing outside. Look for any raised red marks and be especially vigilant for ticks that might hide under skin folds or shaggy summer haircuts.