Parenting Babycare

Chemical Repellents For Your Child: How Safe Are They?

Ambili S Kartha
3 to 7 years

Created by Ambili S Kartha
Updated on Oct 20, 2020

Chemical Repellents For Your Child How Safe Are They
Reviewed by Expert panel

Insect bites are one of my least favorite things in the world. Of all the insects, mosquitoes are one which bothers your little one more. You most likely have already set all kinds of physical barriers to hinder mosquitoes to enter in your home and find its way to the little one. Despite all the physical barriers that you put at home, mosquitoes will find its way. Not only mosquito bites itchy and irritating, they are also are the carriers of many dangerous diseases, including Malaria and Dengue Fever.

One way to protect your child from biting insects is to use insect repellents. It is true that mosquito repellents work great to drive away not only mosquitoes but any insect. Here comes the hundred dollar question. How safe are chemical repellents for a child? There are some things you should know about chemical repellents when you select a baby repellent. Some repellents contain insecticide ingredients that are toxic to children. Whereas others are tagged safe for babies, infants, and kids.

What Is Chemical Repellent?

Chemical repellents are insect repellents with synthetic ingredients. Mosquito repellents come in different shapes and forms and types. It comes in the form of sprays, coils, aerosols, lotions, gels, roll-on's – and even shampoos!

Are Chemical Repellents Safe For Kids?

The most common active ingredient in insect repellents is DEET. Several studies conducted in this field suggests DEET may pose health risks, mainly it can put a toll on the central nervous system. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend using DEET containing products on children below the age of two months. However, products with 10 percent DEET is believed to be safe to use on older children. On the other hand, products containing 30 percent or more of DEET, should definitely not be used on children of whichever age.

How To Use Chemical Repellents Safely On A Child?

If your baby is under two months old, protect the baby from mosquito bite by using mosquito nets and clothing that cover a maximum of his or her body. If your child is older and you have to rely on chemical repellents, bear the following things in your mind.
  • A good way to limit the toxic effects of chemical repellents is to apply it to clothing, bed covers, window screens, mesh insect nets, tents, or sleeping bags
  • Concentrations higher than 30% are not more effective than the 10% ones. Moreover, increased percentage of the chemical in the repellent increases the amount which is absorbed through the skin

Try not to use chemical repellents:

  • Under the clothes
  • In your baby's hands since she might put them in her mouth
  • On areas around the eyes and mouth
  • Over scratches, cuts, wounds or irritated skin
  • It's also best not to spray chemical repellents or coils in a closed room when the baby is in
  • Never use spray chemical repellents near food
  • Never let the baby sleep in a room with a plug-in repellent or burning coil
  • It is recommended to use coils outside the doors and windows - at the entry point of the mosquitoes

Is There Any Alternative For Chemical Repellent?

Mosquito bats and mosquito nets are the safest options for babies as it has zero health effects. You can also use natural insect repellents. However, these natural repellents are not as effective as chemical ones both in terms of both effect and duration. Therefore, these are not recommended in places prone to mosquito-borne diseases.

How To Select Best Insect Repellent For Kids?

The main chemical you want to avoid when choosing a mosquito repellent for your baby is DEET. When reading product labels, opt out the products which have N-diethyl-meta-toluamide or diethyltoluamide. You can opt for:
  1. Picaridin-containing repellents:

    Picaridin is a compound found in many mosquito repellents and is one of the newer insect repellent ingredients. It's said to more or less similar to 10 percent DEET formulas. It is also odorless and colorless, which makes it more appropriate for children
  2. Permethrin-containing repellents:

    Permethrin is another strong insecticide. Even though synthetic, its structure resembles a naturally occurring insecticide found in the chrysanthemum flower. It is, as a rule, non-toxic as well. It actually provides much protection against ticks and lice than the mosquitoes. Also, it should be applied only to clothing – not on the bare skin of the child
  3. Plant-based repellents:

    Plant-based repellents are 100% natural and non-toxic and are generally safe to use on young children. The essential oils of plants like cedar, citronella, eucalyptus, and soybean are capable to ward off mosquitoes. PMD (P-menthane diol) is a plant-based repellent that gives protection just like the low concentrations of DEET products. It is, however, not recommended for kids under 3 years old
If you are looking for safe repellent for your baby, try the following options:
  1. Insect repellent wipes:

    When using the repellent on younger children, repellent wipes are a much easier option as it brings down the chances of the components getting it in the eyes or mouth. Wipes with DEET less than 10% is available in the market. Even though it lasts for less duration since it is handy and easy to use you can rely on it during an outdoor trip. Picaridin wipes are also available for the little one with sensitive skin
  2. Mosquito repellent lotions:

    The lotions are also convenient and handy. Child-friendly mosquito and bug repellent lotions, creams, and gels can be applied directly to the exposed skin. Here remember an important fact – when it comes to topical crèmes and lotions, 10% DEET is as effective as 30%
  3. Physical barrier:

    Cot nets, used to cover the whole bed and installing insect screens on bedroom windows are a good alternative for chemical repellent
  4. Essential oils & scents (not for skin application):

    If you don't want to apply anything directly to your baby's skin, leave an open jar of Vicks or Menthol Camphor close to where the baby sleeps. Here are some other good remedies. You can use on their own or mix together:
  • Citronella essential oil (you should always dilute citronella oil with another oil or with water)
  • Peppermint oil (also good for keeping spiders away)
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Vanilla essence

How To Use:

  • Take the oils in a saucer, dish or bowl and place it in close proximity to where your baby sleeps
  • Take the mixture in a bowl. Soak a piece of cotton wool and leave it near where your baby sleeps
  • You can also apply it directly to a cot pillow or sheet (just a few drops)
  • You can dilute in a spray bottle of water and spray onto linen

Did you find this blog useful? Please do share your thoughts with us in the comments section below; we’d love to hear from you.

This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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| Apr 24, 2018


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| Apr 25, 2018

very informative article.. is good night roll on is safe for babies below 2 months..

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| May 02, 2018


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| Nov 20, 2018

which soap nd moisturiser and shampoo are good for my 7years old girl

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| Jul 31, 2019


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| Feb 17, 2021

Very helpful,thanku for sharing 👍

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