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EWG’s 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents
July 17, 2018

EWG’s 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents : For Kids

No repellent is right every time. Click to find your best bet.

 

I WANT TO PROTECT MY KIDS AGAINST LYME DISEASE

Choose a repellent with picaridin at a 20 percent concentration, IR3535 at a 20 percent concentration, DEET (see note for concentrations), or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus at a 30 to 40 percent concentration, unless your child is under 3 years old.

Other things to consider:

  • No repellent is 100 percent effective, so take extra precautions to avoid tick bites.
  • Dress your kids in pants, socks and shoes, and long-sleeve shirts, especially when they are venturing into heavy brush with likely tick infestations. Also consider permethrin-treated clothing.
  • Health agencies offer conflicting advice about the DEET concentration safe for children. The CDC’s 2016 recommendation suggested DEET with maximum concentrations of 20 to 30 percent for children's protection from Lyme disease borne by ticks.1 Health Canada recommends DEET with concentrations no greater than 5 to 10 percent for children.2 But this weaker concentration may not offer a strong defense against ticks bearing Lyme disease.
  • Check your kids thoroughly for ticks every night and remove ticks properly.
  • The CDC advises not to use Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Natural lemon eucalyptus oil is not the same as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on the child. Avoid the child's eyes and mouth. Use repellent sparingly around ears. Do not apply repellent to the child's hands because children may put their hands in their mouths.
  • Wash hands after applying repellent and wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.
  • Keep bottles of bug repellent away from young children to reduce chances of accidental swallowing.

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I WANT TO PROTECT MY KIDS FROM ZIKA VIRUS

Choose a repellent with picaridin at a 20 percent concentration or DEET at a 7 to 30 percent concentration. Choose a concentration based on the amount of time your kids will be outdoors.

Other things to consider:

  • Cover kids’ skin with pants and long-sleeve shirts when possible, especially if they need protection from both sun and mosquitoes.
  • Daily use of DEET for prolonged periods may be inadvisable for children. Consult your doctor.
  • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on the child. Avoid the child’s eyes and mouth. Use repellent sparingly around ears. Do not apply repellent to the child’s hands because children may put their hands in their mouths.
  • Keep bottles of bug repellent away from young children to reduce the chances of accidental swallowing.
  • Wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.

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I WANT TO PROTECT MY BABY FROM BUG BITES

Do not use bug repellents on infants under 6 months old.

Other things to consider:

  • Use fine netting over strollers and baby carriers.

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I WANT TO PROTECT MY KIDS AGAINST WEST NILE VIRUS

Choose a repellent with picaridin at a 10 to 20 percent concentration, DEET at a 7 to 10 percent concentration, or IR3535 at a 20 percent concentration. You may also consider Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus at a 30 to 40 percent concentration or PMD at a 10 percent concentration – unless your child is under 3 years old (see note) – or 2-undecanone. Choose a concentration based on the amount of time your kid will spend outdoors.

 

Other things to consider:

  • Check out the CDC’s West Nile virus maps to find out if you are in a high-risk area.
  • No repellent is 100 percent effective, so take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
  • Cover up with pants and long-sleeve shirts when possible, especially if venturing into mosquito-infested areas.
  • The CDC advises not to use Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Natural lemon eucalyptus oil is not the same as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on the child. Avoid the child’s eyes and mouth. Use repellent sparingly around ears. Do not apply repellent to the child’s hands because children may put their hands in their mouths.
  • Wash hands after applying repellent and wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.
  • Keep bottles of bug repellent away from young children to reduce chances of accidental swallowing.

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MY KID HAS SENSITIVE SKIN or ALLERGIES

Your best bet may be picaridin at a 5 to 20 percent concentration because it is less likely to irritate skin and trigger allergies. People react differently, so you may want to try other options to see what works for your child.

Other things to consider:

  • Try repellents on a small patch of exposed skin before slathering them all over.
  • DEET and IR3535 may cause eye irritation. DEET may cause skin irritation.
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus may cause allergic skin reactions.
  • The CDC advises not to use Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Many botanical repellents contain highly concentrated allergens.
  • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on the child. Avoid the child’s eyes and mouth. Use repellent sparingly around ears. Do not apply repellent to the child’s hands because children may put their hands in their mouths.
  • Wash hands after applying repellent and wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.
  • Keep bottles of bug repellent away from young children to reduce chances of accidental swallowing.
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I'M SENDING MY KIDS TO CAMP

Choose a repellent with: Click here if your child is going to camp where there is Lyme disease. Click here if your child is going to camp where there is West Nile virus. Otherwise, consider picaridin at a 5 to 20 percent concentration, DEET at a 7 to 10 percent concentration, or IR3535 at a 20 percent concentration. Choose a concentration based on the amount of time your kid will spend outdoors. Other botanical products may also be worth considering (see note).

Other things to consider:

  • Send kids to camp with netting for their bunks.
  • Picaridin is less likely to irritate eyes and skin, and may be a good choice.
  • Natural lemon eucalyptus oil is not the same as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • Some botanical repellents may be worth trying if bug-borne disease is not a concern, but many contain highly concentrated allergens.
  • Tell your kids to wash their hands after applying repellent and to wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.

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BUG BORNE DISEASES ARE NOT PREVALENT WHERE WE LIVE

Choose a repellent with picaridin at a 5 to 10 percent concentration, DEET at a 7 to 10 percent concentration, or IR3535 at a 20 percent concentration. You may also consider Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus at 30 to 40 percent, unless your child is under 3 years old (see note); PMD at 10 percent; or 2-undecanone. Base the concentration that you choose on the amount of time your kid will spend outdoors. Other botanical products may also be worth considering (see note).

Other things to consider:

  • If disease-bearing bugs aren't common and bites are infrequent, consider going without repellent.
  • Picaridin is less likely to irritate eyes and skin, and may be a good choice.
  • The CDC advises not to use Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Some botanical repellents may be worth trying if bug-borne disease is not a concern in your area, but many botanicals contain highly concentrated allergens. Effectiveness varies widely – experiment to find out what works best for your children.
  • Natural lemon eucalyptus oil is not the same as Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on the child. Avoid the child's eyes and mouth. Use repellent sparingly around ears. Do not apply repellent to the child's hands because children may put their hands in their mouths.
  • Wash hands after applying repellent and wash repellent-coated skin at the end of the day.
  • Keep bottles of bug repellent away from young children to reduce chances of accidental swallowing.

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References:

1 Travelers’ Health Avoid Bug Bites. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. Available at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites

2 Insect Repellents: DEET. Government of Canada, 2016. Available at www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/about-pesticides/insect-repellents.html