Insect Repellent and Kids, Safe?
Health & Safety

Insect Repellent and Kids, Safe?

by Martha Scully

Now that summer is officially here, we are into the season of fun in the sun and unfortunately, those pesky biting insects. Did you know that not all insect repellents are safe for babies and toddlers? Until a baby has reached the age of 2 months, no insect repellents are safe to use. For babies over 2 months, it is safe to use products containing up to 30% DEET or picaridin, and children over 3 years old can use products containing oil of lemon or eucalyptus. 

When choosing a product, it is important to keep in mind the amount of time the child will be spending outdoors. It is not recommended to apply insect repellents more than once a day, so this is an important factor when choosing a product to use. A lower concentration of repellent does not mean it is less effective, it simply means it works for a shorter period of time. So, if your child will only be outside for 1-2 hours you can use a product with a lower concentration, while a full day outside would require one with a higher concentration. DEET reaches a maximum effectiveness at 30% concentration, so there is no need to use anything higher than that.

Here are some important guidelines to keep in mind when using products containing DEET or picaridin:

  • Because you should not apply insect repellent more than once per day, it is not recommended to use products that are a combination of sunscreen and repellent, as sunscreen needs to be reapplied throughout the day.
  • Avoid applying repellent under clothing. Instead, opt for light, long-sleeved clothing in light colours if possible, and avoid bright, dark, or floral prints, and only apply repellent where needed. Avoid the baby's hands, eye/mouth area, cuts and skin irritations.
  • Spray repellents in open areas and away from food.
  • Once the child is done playing outside, wash their skin with soap and water, laundering any clothing they were wearing to remove traces of the repellent.
  • When applying to the baby's face, spray into your hands first, then rub onto their skin; avoid spraying it directly into the baby's face.

It is best to avoid using chemical insect repellents whenever possible, so as well as dressing in light, skin-covering clothing, try to dress them in socks and shoes instead of sandals. If your child is under 2 months old, you can also use insect netting around the stroller, car seat, highchair, and wherever else the baby is to help protect them from bug bits.

More on this topic: Health & Safety

About the Author
Martha Scully
Martha is the founder of Martha has been featured as a Child Care Expert in hundreds of publications across Canada including The Globe and Mail, CBC, Today's Parent and The National Post, She lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters.