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Pediatric Associates of Livingston

Safety Outdoors: Insect Repellant

Mosquitoes, biting flies, and tick bites can make children miserable. While most children have only mild reactions to insect bites, some children can become very sick. Some insects carry dangerous illnesses such as West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. One way to protect your child from biting insects is to use insect repellents. However, it’s important that insect repellents are used safely and correctly.

Repellent Facts

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates active ingredients in insect repellent products for safety and efficiency, not the FDA.
  • Eight active ingredients are registered with the EPA as insect repellents. Seven of these active
  • ingredients can be applied directly to the skin. One of these active ingredients can only be applied to clothing or camping gear.
      Newborn baby boy
    • DEET
    • Picardin
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus
    • Oil of citronella
    • IR3535
    • Peppermint oil
    • Soybean oil
    • Permethrin


  • It is the most commonly used and available product.
  • Has been used as a commercially available insect repellent for more than 50 years with very few adverse effects being reported. The amount of DEET in a product may range from less than 10% to more than 30%.
  • Studies show that products with higher amounts of DEET protect people longer. For example, products with amounts around 10% may repel pests for about 2 hours, while products with amounts of 24% last an average of 5 hours. But studies also show that products with amounts of DEET greater than 30% don’t offer any extra protection.
  • The AAP recommends the use of DEET at concentration of 10% to 30%.
  • Can be used on infants as young as 2 months of age.


  • Picardin is now available in the U.S. It is available in several products at 7% and 20% concentrations.
    • Duration of action is approximately 4 to 5 hours with 20% concentration.
    • This product should only be applied to clothing, not directly to skin. It may also be applied to outdoor equipment such as sleeping bags or tents.
  • Kills ticks on contact.


  • Permethrin is also registered with the EPA as a insect repellent but can only be applied to clothing or camping gear
  • It repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes, and other arthropods, Tips to Protect Your Kids from Insect Bites
  • Tell your child to avoid areas that attract flying insects, such as garbage cans, stagnant pools of water, and flowerbeds or orchards.
  • Dress your child in long pants, a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, socks, and closed shoes when you know your child will be exposed to insects. A broad-brimmed hat can help to keep insects away from the face. Mosquito netting may be used over baby carriers or strollers in areas where your baby may be exposed to insects.
  • Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints because they seem to attract insects.
  • Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes, or hairsprays on your child because they may attract insects.
  • Keep door and window screens in good repair.
  • Check your child’s skin at the end of the day if you live in an area where ticks are present and your child has been playing outdoors.
    • Remember that the most effective repellent for ticks is permethrin. It should not be applied to skin but on your child’s clothing.

Do’s and Don’ts of Repellents

  • Do’s
    • Only apply insect repellents on the outside of your child’s clothing and on exposed skin.
    • Spray repellents in open areas to avoid breathing them in.
    • Use just enough repellent to cover your child’s clothing and exposed skin. Using more doesn’t make the repellent more effective. Avoid reapplying unless necessary.
    • Assist young children when applying insect repellents on their own. Older children also should be supervised when using these products.
    • Wash your children’s skin with soap and water to remove any repellent when they return indoors, and wash their clothing before they wear it again.
  • Don’ts
    • Never apply insect repellent to children younger than 2 months.
    • Repellents should not be sprayed directly onto your child’s face. Instead, spray a little on your hands first and then rub it on your child’s face. Avoid the eyes and mouth. Insect repellents should not be applied on cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
    • Don’t buy products that combine DEET with sunscreen. The DEET may make the sun protection factor (SPF) less effective. These products can overexpose your child to DEET because the sunscreen needs to be reapplied often.