insect repellent safety

Enjoy a Bug-Free Summer! Insect Repellent Safety Tips

Summer is here and as parents prepare to spend more time outdoors, questions about insect repellents come to mind. Fortunately, the American Academy of Pediatrics has answers and advice ready for families to follow.

In the most recent issue of AAP News, Dr. Gordon Shutze and Dr. Marc Fischer provide parents with valuable safety information about the most common ingredients found in US insect repellents:

Deet (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide)

  • Tops the list as the #1 most common ingredient found in US insect repellent products
  • It is safe and effective if used appropriately
  • While it comes in concentrations of 5% – 100%, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends concentrations of up to 30%
  • It can be applied to skin or clothing
  • It is not recommended for children younger than 2 months of age
  • It has the potential to damage clothes made of synthetic fibers, plastic on eyeglasses, and crystal in watches

Picarding or Icaridin

  • It was made to resemble the natural compound piperine, which is found in the group of plants that are used to produce black pepper
  • It comes in concentrations of 7%, 15%, and 20%
  • It is odorless, non-sticky, non-greasy, and does not damage fabric of plastic
  • This product has not caused toxicity in humans, however liver damage was observed in rats that were exposed to very high doses


  • This ingredient is not used on skin, and is most commonly applied to mosquito nets, clothing, bedding, shoes, or camping gear
  • It works differently than most repellents as it causes nervous system toxicity to insects causing them to leave immediately or die if they remain in contact with the agent
  • Young children should not chew on items that have been treated with Permethin
  • The concentration of this ingredient is 0.5%

Derived from Natural Materials

  • DPM (para-Methane-3,8 diol) and IR 3535 (N-butyl-N-Acetyl-Aminopropionic Acid) are the active ingredients found in the oil of lemon eucalyptus
  • These ingredients are used as natural repellents and are just as effective as DEET
  • Oil of eucalyptus should not be used in children younger than 3 years of age
  • Products containing citronella and other botanical oils are inferior to DEET, Picaridin, PMD or IR3535 and there is insufficient data about their use in children

Now that you know which ingredients to use, it’s important to know how to use them.

Tips for using insect repellents:

  • In young children, use a net with a tight elastic band around the stroller
  • Avoid products combining both insect repellents and sun screen – sun screen should be reapplied more often than insect repellent
  • Do not use repellents under clothing
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin
  • Do not spray on the face; apply repellent with hands
  • Do not allow young children to apply repellent
  • Do not spray repellent in enclosed areas or around food
  • Reapply if washed off by sweat or moisture
  • After returning indoors, wash treated area with soap and water
  • If your child develops a rash or any other reaction after using mosquito repellents, wash the area off with soap and water then call the U.S. poison control center at for more guidance: 800-222-1222

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