The Best Insect and Mosquito Repellents for Kids

Best Insect and Mosquito Repellents for Children

Jonathan Jassey, DO, is a board-certified private pediatrician at Bellmore Merrick Medical in Bellmore, New York.

Although once considered just a nuisance, insect bites can lead to serious medical problems. Not only can certain insects and ticks spread diseases like West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the bites themselves can become infected with bacteria, like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

And now folks have the Zika virus to worry about, especially if they plan to travel to areas with active outbreaks, including South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Since bites are itchy, even without any worries about health problems, protect your kids from insect bites by having them apply an insect repellent when they will be outside.

Which Insect Repellents Are Safe for Kids?

Although most parents know that they can use insect repellent on their older children, many are surprised that it is considered safe to use most insect repellents on infants aged two months and older to prevent bites from mosquitoes and other insects. However, an insect repellent that contains oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under age three years old.

How Long Do Insect Repellents Last?

In general, the best insect repellent provides enough protection against biting insects and ticks for your child. And that usually depends on how long your child will be outside.

For example, an insect repellent with 4.75 percent DEET protects your child for about an hour and a half. An insect repellent with a higher concentration of DEET will provide more protection:

  • 6.65 percent DEET provides about 2 hours of protection
  • 20 percent DEET provides about 4 hours of protection
  • 23.8 percent DEET provides about 5 hours of protection
  • 7 percent Picaridin provides about 3 to 4 hours of protection
  • 15 percent Picaridin provides about 6 to 8 hours of protection
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus provides about 2 to 5 hours of protection

Insect repellents with other natural ingredients usually provide less protection. For example, ​citronella oil usually provides about 20 to 30 minutes of protection.

Best Insect Repellents

When choosing an insect repellent for your kids, the most long-lasting insect repellent will have either DEET or Picaridin as an active ingredient.

Insect repellent choices can include:

  • Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin Towelettes (10 percent Picaridin)
  • Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent (7 percent Picaridin)
  • Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent Wipes (5.75 percent Picaridin)
  • Cutter Advanced Sports Insect Repellent (15 percent Picaridin)
  • Cutter All Family Insect Repellent (7 percent DEET)
  • Cutter Skinsations Insect Repellent, Clean Fresh Scent (7 percent DEET)
  • Cutter Skinsations Insect Repellent, Ultra Light (15 percent Picaridin)
  • Cutter Backwoods Mosquito Wipes, Unscented (23 percent DEET)
  • Off! Active Sweat Resistant Insect Repellent, Unscented (15 percent DEET)
  • Off! Active Sweat Resistant Insect Repellent, Pump Spray (25 percent DEET)
  • Off! FamilyCare Clean Feel, Insect Repellent (5 percent Picaridin)
  • Off! FamilyCare Smooth & Dry, Insect Repellent (15 percent DEET)
  • Off! FamilyCare Tropical Fresh, Insect Repellent (5 percent DEET)
  • Off! FamilyCare Unscented, Insect Repellent (7 percent DEET)
  • Off! Family Care Towelettes (5 percent DEET)
  • Off! Insect Repellent Spray with Aloe Vera, Unscented (7 percent DEET)
  • Off! Insect Repellent, Aerosol (15 percent DEET)
  • Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellant (25 percent DEET)
  • Repel Insect Repellent, Sportsmen Formula (29 percent DEET)
  • Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent, Controlled Release (20 percent DEET)

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

There are caveats with natural insect repellents that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), a plant-based insect repellent.

  • It can’t be used on kids under age 3 years old
  • It doesn’t last as long as DEET or picaridin.
  • Using an essential oil or «Pure» oil of lemon eucalyptus is not recommended as an insect repellent, as the EPA has never tested the safety or effectiveness of essential oils for this purpose.

With those restrictions in mind, these are products where you can find it:

  • Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
  • Repel Plant Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

What About Skin-Soft?

Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard which has IR3535 as its active ingredient is also thought to provide reasonably long-lasting protection. The Skin-So-Soft products with IR3535 are all combination products that include both an insect repellent and a sunscreen, which is usually discouraged by most experts since you usually have to reapply sunscreen every few hours.

Natural Insect Repellents

Although they are not usually thought to last as long, some parents like the idea of using a DEET-free natural insect repellent. Both natural mosquito repellents and essential oils as natural insect repellents have been marketed as being less toxic both to children and the environment.

These type of insect repellents, with ingredients like lemongrass oil, citronella oil, and soybean oil, can include:

  • Aubrey Organics Gone! Safe and Natural Outdoor Spray (contains natural grain alcohol)
  • Badger Anti-Bug Balm
  • Bite Blocker All Natural Insect Repellent Herbal Wipes
  • Bite Blocker Sports Deet Free Waterproof Insect Repellent
  • Bite Blocker Xtreme All Natural, «Deet Free» Insect Repellent
  • Burt’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent
  • California Baby Citronella Summer Lotion
  • Kiss My Face Swy Flotter, Natural Tick & Insect Repellent

The problem with many of the natural repellents is that they have not been studied to the same extent as products like DEET and picaridin, and those natural products that have been studied tend not to be as effective (or last for only a short time).

Often times parents need to weigh the risks and benefits of these products against the likelihood of receiving bites—which can lead to discomfort and sometimes disease. An extreme example against natural products would include malaria. In regions where malaria (which kills around 600,000 people each year) is endemic, the benefits of using a product such as DEET or picaridin would far outweigh any risks posed by these chemicals.

If you are really concerned about your child getting bit, use an insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, or biopesticide repellents, such as IR3535 or OLE.

What You Need to Know About Insect Repellents

Other things to know about insect repellents for kids include:

  • Do not apply insect repellents under clothing, on a young child’s hands, near their mouth or eyes, or over cuts and irritated skin.
  • In general, mosquito repellents are the same thing as insect repellents. You typically want a higher concentration of insect repellent, often 20 percent or higher DEET if you are trying to avoid ticks.
  • Wash off insect repellents with soap and water once you bring your kids inside.
  • Avoid reapplying insect repellents more than once a day unless your kids are getting bit again.
  • Avoid using a combination sunscreen/insect repellent, unless your child is only going to be outside for a few hours and you won’t have to reapply it since the directions for reapplying sunscreen (every few hours) and insect repellent (only if bugs are biting again) are different.
  • When applying both a sunscreen and an insect repellent, it is usually best to apply your sunscreen first, and use a sunscreen with a high SPF in case the insect repellent makes the sunscreen less effective. As an extra note on protecting your kids, make sure to purchase sunscreens with ingredients that offer protection against UVA rays as well as UVB.
  • Don’t forget the «other» things you can do to reduce your child’s chance of being a bit. In addition to an insect repellent, try things such as dressing your kids in thin, loose-fitting, long-sleeve clothing that doesn’t include bright colors, encouraging your kids to wear socks and shoes instead of sandals, avoiding scented soaps and other things that might attract mosquitoes and other bugs, and controlling mosquitoes and other insects where your kids play.
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Also, remember to talk to your pediatrician if your child gets sick after recently getting bitten by a mosquito, tick, or another type of insect.

Best Mosquito Repellent For Camping: Which to choose and why

Mosquitos are the worlds most dangerous animal with a reported 700,000 deaths each year. Although it is not the insect which kills you rather it is the infection it carries – with Malaria counting for 400,000 of these deaths.

For the majority of the time the main thing we have to worry about in the developed world is the itching caused by these adaptable insects. It can take over your thoughts and make everyday life very uncomfortable.

Mosquito Repellent Active Ingredients

The main point to consider when selecting a mosquito spray is what its active ingredient is. There are only a few worth using and they are:

  1. DEET – Created by the US army in 1946 – this active ingredient is the gold standard in mosquito repellent – it has stood the test of time and is used in the harshest enviroments. Some people had raised issues of how safe the product was for use with humans- but these concerns have all been quashed by multiple government and scientific studies. The liquid is sprayed onto your skin and works by deterring the mosquitos – not by killing them.
  2. Icaridin also known as Picaridin is also a mosquito repellent, which was created to rival DEET by BAYER in early 2001. The product is approved by the World Health Organisation. The main difference between DEET and Icaridin/Picaridin is that the latter is completely odourless, non greasy and does not dissolve plastics. See the below article compaing the two:
  3. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus– Also known as PMD -this would be the most naturally sourced mosquito repellent of the three. The oil is taken from the eucalyptus trees leaves and is chemically synthesized (this means it is mixed with other ingredients which react together to form the final liquid) which are usually vanilla, witch hazel and rubbing alcohol. This results in a proven, effective mosquito repellent- be aware there are many natural repellents which do not work well so be sure to check the active ingredient.

Beware of wrist bands and bracelets which claim to work effectively – it has been shown in trials that a mosquito will bite as close as 5 cm/ 2″ to a repellent bracelet. Also read the application instructions carefully – DEET products usually require the applied product to have their skin bare and not covered with clothing during use.

Best Mosquito Repellent

I have made a short list of the top proven mosquito repellents below.

Liposome based repellent with 30% DEET

Non greasy, odourless, sweat proof

Controlled release formula -up to 11 hours

Airline friendly 3oz bottle

Effective against mosquitos, ticks, and fleas

Sawyer Products are one of the leading, most respected brands when it comes to providing long lasting protection from mosquitos. They have taken the active ingredient DEET and created a non greasy product – which was one of the sticking points DEET had – it was sometimes unpleasant for some wearers as it could have a greasy feel on your skin. The majority of the population was fine but if you had sensitive skin it may have been an issue. This product gets round that to give you great long lasting protection and easy to wear.

Effective against the yellow fever Mosquito

Lotion is effective for up to 14 hours

Safe to use on the whole family

Wont damage clothing

Consumer Reports – listed safe and effective February 2016

Another great product from Sawyer. This is the more modern active ingredient Picaridin created by BAYER in 1998. This product can be used by pregnant mothers and children and has a pleasant, low odour citrus aroma. This is about as good as you are going to get in terms of an effective safe mosquito repellent which is easy to wear.

3. REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, Pump Spray, 4-Ounce

This is a more naturally sourced mosquito repellent, which has many positive reviews, and has a really fresh smell. It gives a solid 6 hours of protection per application – which is more than enough unless you are seriously fit and like to keep going for longer!


If i had to choose one of the above i think it would be the second one with Picaridin- it seems to give the best protection and is very safe for all the family – although it is synthetic.

If i had the luxury of picking two – i think i would buy the second (Picaridin) and the third (oil of lemon eucalyptus). Then, i would use the one made from oil of lemon eucalyptus to see how it faired for me – if it worked well i would keep on using it and if it didn’t i would have the “big guns” to fall back on (Picaridin) as the last thing you want is any mosquito bites.

I hope you found this article informative and helpful – leave me comments below if there is anything else you like to read more about…thanks.

Are Insect Repellents With DEET Safe for Kids?

Insect repellents containing DEET have been tested and approved as safe for kids older than 2 months. But take care when you use them:

  • Choose a repellent with no more than 10% to 30% concentration of DEET (look for N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide on the label).
  • Use lower concentrations if kids will be outside only for an hour or two.
  • If they’re outside longer, consider using a repellent with a higher concentration of DEET. (The higher concentration means that it will last longer.)

Generally, repellent with DEET should not be applied more than once a day.

DEET can put on exposed skin, as well as clothing, socks, and shoes. But don’t use it on your child’s face, under clothing, on cuts or irritated skin, or on the hands of young children.

  • Do not use a single product containing both sunscreen and DEET. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied often, while DEET should not be used more than once a day.
  • DEET concentrations higher than 30% are not more effective and the chemical (which is absorbed through the skin) in high amounts can be toxic. Follow the directions on the label.
  • Do not apply repellent to kids’ hands. This prevents them from swallowing any if they put their hands in their mouth. It also can irritate eyes if they touch them.
  • Don’t spray the repellent anywhere near the mouth.
  • Apply the repellent in an open area so that you and your child don’t breathe it in.
  • Wash kids’ skin with soap and water when they come back inside, and wash all clothes before they’re worn again.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that repellents containing the ingredients picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus also can protect against mosquitoes:

  • Picaridin is a compound found in many mosquito repellents used in Europe, Australia, Latin America, and Asia. Its chemical name, which you might find in the list of «active ingredients» on a product, is KBR 3023. Years of safe use of picaridin in other parts of the world show that it’s safe and effective.
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus is also known as P-menthane diol (PMD). PMD is a plant-based repellent that gives protection time similar to low concentrations of DEET products. It is not recommended for kids under 3 years old.

No matter which repellent you choose, check the list of active ingredients. It should contain one of these effective chemicals. Then, follow the directions carefully.

Natural Mosquito Repellents in the Wild

Sweet summer time – that time of year when all you want to do is be outside tending to your yard, relaxing on the patio, soaking up some rays, or any other number of backyard activities. Few things can keep you from enjoying the warm temperatures and long summer nights, that is until the mosquitoes start to bite.

While you could just head inside, if you are like most people, you would rather find a way to deter the nasty biters than give up your time outdoors. This is where you grab your trusted insect repellent. What is your go-to mosquito repellent? Is it a conventional repellent with time-tested ingredients like DEET or picaridin? Or do you use something more natural?

While both have their place, this article gives you some insight into more natural mosquito repellants, their benefits, types to consider, and even how to make your own.

Why would I choose a conventional bug repellent?

No matter where you call home if it’s a place that has warm temperatures in the summer and even a slight bit of humidity you have been able to experience the not so welcome feeling of a mosquito bite. You swat them away only to be left with the tell-tale round, itchy welt and a nagging feeling that it is possible that little insect could be carrying a potentially harmful disease.

Before you decide to go the natural route with your mosquito repellent you may want to consider a few factors regarding the risk associated with mosquito bites. If you live in an area that is heavily infested with mosquitoes, stronger repellents that contain DEET or picaridin are going to offer the best protection. Also ask yourself how long you plan to be outside. Conventional repellents typically last longer than their natural counterparts. So unless you can reapply frequently consider choosing a stronger option.

It is also important to know how high the risk is in your area of acquiring a harmful disease that is carried by mosquitoes, ticks, or other biting insects. The long term effects or possible fatalities associated with diseases such as Zika, West Nile, or Lyme disease are far more troublesome than applying a little bit of chemical repellent to your skin.

What are the benefits of a natural repellent?

As mentioned before, many of the most effective bug repellents contain high concentrations of DEET, usually around 23.8%. DEET or diethyl-meta-toluamide is a chemical and according to many studies, a pretty nasty one. About 15% of it is absorbed through your skin and makes its way directly to the bloodstream. It has been observed to cause everything from reproductive disturbances to central nervous system disorders. A study done at Duke University showed that DEET “damages brain cells, can cause behavioral changes, and can have harmful interactions with some medications.” It is also not recommended for use on children or pregnant women.

So, this leads us to the most obvious benefit to choosing a natural mosquito repellent – to avoid the use of harmful chemicals on your body. Not only will natural repellents reduce health risks but they also smell better and are safer for the environment. Many of the recommended alternatives are 100% natural and plant-based. Their oils can also serve a dual purpose such as helping with dry skin or providing your body with antioxidants.

Natural mosquito repellent options

Natural mosquito repellents essentially come in two different forms. There are the manufactured types from companies that produce conventional repellents that also want to offer a more natural version. These include, just to name a few:

  • Cutter Natural
  • Burt’s Bees Herbal
  • EcoSmart Organic
  • All Terrain Kids Herbal Armor
  • Repel Lemon Eucalyptus

While these products do contain natural active ingredients and are free of DEET, they tend to vary in their effectiveness and also contain other ingredients that contribute to preservation and application.

The second form is natural, or essential, oils derived directly from plants. These oils typically come in their most pure form and may actually need to be diluted in a carrier oil, water, or lotion before being applied directly to the skin. Sometimes just the smell of these oils is a mosquito deterrent and they can be applied to surrounding surfaces as well.

Here are just a few of the most common options:

Oil of lemon eucalyptus

This is one of the most common natural oils used to repel insects. It can give almost as much protection as low concentrations of DEET for up to 3 hours. OLE should not be used in its purest form but should be diluted in witch hazel or sunflower oil before application. This oil has been approved by the CDC but is not recommended for use on children under three.

Catnip oil

Taken from a plant related to mint called nepeta cataria, catnip oil is actually extracted from the leaves instead of the flowers. As a mosquito repellent, one study from Iowa State University found that it can be 10 times more effective than DEET and can last up to 7 hours.


Citronella is probably the most common natural repellent, found in many candles and other sprays. However, to be as effective as DEET, citronella should be used in its pure essential oil form. Other forms evaporate in as little as 20 minutes and are only 50% as effective.


You can easily grow lavender in your own garden, and outdoors the smell alone could deter insects. To be more effective you can crush lavender flowers and apply the oil directly to the skin. As an added bonus lavender also has anti-fungal and antiseptic properties, so it can be calming at the same time.

Neem oil

From a plant in India, neem oil is considered a natural insecticidal compound. In some studies, it has been found to be more effective than DEET, but since it is a fairly new alternative its effectiveness is still under question. It should not be applied directly to skin as it can cause irritation, but should first be diluted in water, oil, or lotion. It can last for up to 3 hours.

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Soybean oil

Found in many manufactured natural repellents, soy oil has been found to be just as effective as DEET and is also longer lasting than some other natural oils. It is safe to use on children and deters several species of mosquitoes. It can also act as a natural skin moisturizer.


This one is simple, just eat a few cloves of garlic before going outdoors. Mosquitoes can’t stand the smell. Garlic pills or garlic oil are not as potent and are found to not be as effective.

Before using any of the above essential oils it is a good idea to do some research and know what you are using. Most of the oils should not be taken orally or will need to be diluted before being applied topically. They can do more harm than good if used in high concentrations. There is a wealth of information available about how to dilute these oils, what to use as a carrier, and what ratios to mix.

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent Recipes

There are tons of options out there for making homemade natural mosquito repellents. Most of them include some combination of essential oils, which are gaining popularity and becoming easy to find, even in mainstream stores. For some ingredients, such as witch hazel, you may have to visit a health food store or order something online. Whatever recipe you choose to follow, most of the DIY repellents are simple, quick, and only have a few ingredients.

“Your Choice” Essential Oils Recipe


  • Essential oils – any combination of those mentioned above: lemon eucalyptus, catnip, citronella, lavender, neem
  • Witch hazel
  • Distilled water
  • Vegetable glycerin


  1. Fill an 8 oz spray bottle half full of distilled water
  2. Fill nearly to the top with witch hazel
  3. Add ½ tsp vegetable glycerin
  4. Add 30-50 drops of your choice combination of essential oils

Mosquito Spray


  • Rubbing alcohol – 16 oz
  • Whole cloves – 3.5 oz
  • Baby oil – 3.5 oz


  1. Add alcohol and cloves to a glass jar or container
  2. Leave them to sit and infuse for 4 days, stirring twice a day
  3. After 4 days, strain the cloves out of the alcohol
  4. Add the alcohol to a spray bottle
  5. Mix in the baby oil
  6. Shake well
  7. Spray onto clothing or skin before going outside

When you make your own natural mosquito repellent the options for scent and potency are endless. There are numerous oils that have repelling effects and while some are stronger and more effective than others, the choice is yours to make it using a scent that your family can tolerate and maybe even enjoy. Some of the other common, and aromatic oils, that are often used in natural insect sprays include vanilla, rosemary, cedar, tea tree, and mint.

Are there disadvantages to natural repellents?

While the disadvantages to using an all-natural substance are not as extreme as the health risks associated with chemical bug repellents, there are some down sides to these alternatives.

  • Effectiveness does not last as long in most cases, usually only 1 -2 hours
  • Not the best option for large mosquito infestations or places with high-risk for diseases
  • Not all are approved by the EPA or tested by the CDC
  • Some can cause mild skin irritations if not applied correctly

Are there other options for avoiding mosquitoes?

While repellents, whether conventional or natural, are the most effective way to keep mosquitoes and insects at bay, there are other options if you have sensitive skin or don’t have quick access to something before going outside.

First, you can simply cover up. This may not seem like an appealing option when it is 85 degrees and humid, but it is definitely the most preventative measure against insect bites. Wear long sleeves, long pants, socks, and shoes that cover your whole foot.

If you are prone to mosquito bites no matter what you do it is a good idea to just stay inside, especially during sunrise and sunset. These are a mosquitoes most active times and when you’ll find most of them are out and looking for a snack.

Finally, remove any standing water around your home. Standing water such as buckets, puddles, bird baths and even swimming pools serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. By eliminating these sources or keeping the water in them treated you can drastically reduce your mosquito population.

Frequently Asked Questions

How effective are natural mosquito repellents?

The effectiveness of natural mosquito repellents can vary greatly depending on the oil that is used in making the repellent. Some of the oils have been studied and been approved by the CDC as being as effective as DEET, while others are still under much scrutiny as an effective alternative. When you decide which oil to use there is a lot of information you can find to determine its effectiveness.

Of the oils mentioned in the above article the most effective are the three below. Their effectiveness is compared to traditional repellents that use DEET and based on their ability to keep mosquitos away and for how long.

  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus: nearly as effective as low concentrations of DEET, protects for up to 3 hours
  • Catnip oil: several studies have shown this oil as 10 times more effective than DEET (however others show that it is significantly less effective), protects for up to 7 hours
  • Neem: more effective than regular concentrations of DEET, lasts about 3 hours

Where can I buy natural mosquito repellent?

There are several commercial brands of natural mosquito repellent available to purchase. Many of them are manufactured by companies that produce traditional mosquito repellents. They can be purchased at most grocery stores, drug stores, or popular retail locations such as Walmart or Target. Amazon is another common place to purchase these commercial sprays.

What plants are a natural mosquito repellent?

The following plants can be planted around the perimeter of your yard or near the patio to act as a natural mosquito repellent without having to apply something to your skin. Several of them also have flowers that can be crushed or rubbed on your skin to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Can I make a natural mosquito repellent cream?

It is actually quite simple to create your own mosquito repellent cream. You can use any combination of the mentioned oils that repel mosquitos – lavender, citronella, neem, lemon eucalyptus, thyme, mint, etc. Instead of mixing the oils in water, vegetable oil, and witch hazel to make a spray form, you can mix the oils with coconut oil or lotion to make a cream that can be applied all over the body.

What is the best natural mosquito repellent?

As far as essential oil mosquito repellents, the “best” can be very subjective based on individual experiences. Some of the oils mentioned, and many others, actually react to people’s bodies in different ways so what is effective for some may not be as effective for others.

However, several studies by Consumer Reports and noted universities on natural mosquito repellents have shown that products that contain lemon eucalyptus are the best at keeping the most mosquitos away for the longest time. The natural commercial repellent that got the best ratings was Repel Lemon Eucalyptus.

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