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Ask Dr. Dina: Are insect repellents with DEET safe for kids?

Paediatrician and mom of three Dr. Dina Kulik on how much DEET is safe to use on kids and yourself.

Ask Dr. Dina: Are insect repellents with DEET safe for kids?

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Getting outdoors is loads of fun, but if you're worried about bug bites and insect-borne diseases you need to know which bug spray options are best. Dr. Dina breaks down whether or not DEET insect repellents are safe for kids and how best to use them.

is deet safe for kids? Getty

Are insect repellents with DEET safe for my child?

Using a product with DEET (diethyltoluamide) is the best way to prevent bites from insects, including ticks. The amount of DEET in a bug spray is listed as a percentage—the higher the percentage of DEET, the longer it will guard against bites.

  • On children six months to two years old, you can use up to 10 percent DEET once a day. This should provide bite protection for up to four hours.
  • Kids older than two can safely use 10 percent DEET up to three times a day.
  • Teens and adults can use products with up to 30 percent. Hold off using DEET products if you’re pregnant and breastfeeding—more research is needed to determine its safety.

The best DEET insect repellents for children and babies

Best for babies and toddlers

Off! FamilyCare Bug Repellent Spritz

Is deet safe for my child? Merchant

At 7% DEET, this bottle is your best bet for gentle baby and toddler skin. We love that it's unscented and loaded with skin-soothing and softening aloe and is one of the most affordable insect repellents containing DEET.  It's also an ideal addition to your overnight bag when you're camping with a baby.

Just a reminder though—even though this baby-safe DEET formula is approved for little ones six months of age and older, it should still be used sparingly.

Best for children

Cutter Dry Insect Repellent

deet for children, cutter dry spray Merchant

We love the baby-safe formula above, but if you're looking for something that stands up to more active older kids, this Cutter formula is a great choice for low-to-medium-level DEET on children. It dries almost instantly against skin and clothes, promising a less messy and totally non-greasy finish.

At 10% DEET, it's ideal for kids ages five through 12 and works for hours at a time without greasy active ingredients that leave stains.

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Best for older teens and adults

Off! Backwoods Insect Repellent Spray

off! backwoods deet bug spray Merchant

Whether you're heading to the woods for a day of hiking or making the most of your very own backyard, this Off! Backwoods spray is ideal for teens and adults. With 25% DEET it promises long-lasting protection against mosquitos and other gnarly bugs for several hours at a time. If you live in a Lyme disease-prone area, this is bottle is a total must-have because it works efficiently to repel all sorts of ticks.

Just remember, it's a heavy-duty higher concentration DEET product and should still be used carefully to ensure proper mosquito bite safety.


What to keep in mind when using DEET on kids

  • It's important to limit inhalation—spray DEET bug sprays in an open area.
  • Avoid contact with the eyes and mouth.
  • To fully remove DEET bug sprays, you'll need to wash the skin with soap and water thoroughly. Water alone won't be enough.
  • Avoid contact with cuts or irritated skin, and don't spray bug repellents onto rashes, or delicate areas with exposed skin.

Dr. Dina Kulik is a paediatrician and emergency room doctor in Toronto and mom to three boys. Send her your kids’ health questions at editors@todaysparent.com

This article contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

This article was originally published on Jul 14, 2016

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