Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson

Mosquito Repellents for Children

photo of child spraying repellent

Your children can avoid mosquito bites if they:

  • stay indoors after dusk,
  • stay away from standing water and areas where mosquitoes like to gather, and
  • use an insect repellent approved for use on children.

In the summer, kids like to join us in activities that take place during peak mosquito hours. So, when your child is heading outside, use a repellent that:

  • is approved for children by the CDC and is effective against culex mosquitoes, the kind that carry West Nile virus;
  • best fits his/her age; and
  • best matches the length of time he/she will be outside and exposed.

Remember: Mosquito repellents are not all the same. Some brands have different ingredients than others. Some brands are better at stopping mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus than other brands. Also, the directions for use on children are often different than directions for adult use.

When choosing a mosquito repellent for children, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it recommended for children?
  • How long is it effective? Is it effective against culex mosquitoes?
  • What is the active ingredient, and can my child use that ingredient?
  • When and where will it be used?

When using repellent on a child:

  • Avoid applying to the child's eyes, mouth, and palms of hands. If a child is still sucking a thumb or mouthing fingers often, don't apply repellent to the child's hands at all.
  • Always have an adult apply repellent to a child.
  • Keep repellents out of reach of children.
  • Only apply to exposed skin.
  • Follow application directions for children.
  • Do not overapply. Use only what your child needs.
  • Do not use a repellent that is combined with sunscreen into one product. However, using separate repellent and separate sunscreen products at the same time is an acceptable practice.
  • If a child develops a rash or other apparent allergic reaction from an insect repellent, stop using the repellent, wash it off with mild soap and water, and call a local poison control center for further guidance.

Don't use:

  • A repellent with 30% or higher concentration of DEET on children.
  • Repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under three. Oil of lemon eucalyptus has not been significantly tested on children of that age.
  • Any repellent on infants younger than two months. Use a carrier with mosquito netting, or do not take an infant where and when mosquitoes are likely to be present.

The following chart can help you choose a repellent that is best for your child based on exposure times. Keep several repellents on your shelves so that your family is prepared for outdoor activities any time. Always read the label to determine if it is safe for children!

Products containing premethrin are intended to be used on clothing and/or gear only. They should never be applied to skin. Products that contain oil of eucalyptus are not recommended for use on children under three.

Repellent name Main ingredient Protection time
Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition IR3535 8 hours
Natrapel Picaridin 20% 8 hours
Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin 10% 6-8 hours
OFF! Active DEET 15% up to 6 hours
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus (do not use for children under 3) Oil of lemon eucalyptus up to 6 hours
Cutter All Family Picaridin 7% 4-6 hours
OFF! Family Care DEET 5% - 15% 4-6 hours
Buzz Away Extreme Soybean oil, geranium oil, castor oil, cedarwood oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil, lemongrass oil 3.5-8 hours
OFF! Family Care Clean Feel Picaridin 5% 2-4 hours
Cutter Skinsations DEET 7% Up to 2 hours
Herbal Armor Citronella, peppermint oil, cedar oil, lemongrass oil, geranium oil Up to 2 hours
Buzz Away Citronella oil 10 minutes

Products containing DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, and picaridin are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Products containing citronella oil have met applicable standards of the EPA.

It is not recommended to use a repellent/sunscreen combination.

For more detailed information on repellents, visit:

Information for this fact sheet adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Background Image: Cirque Meadows by Adam Johnson. All rights reserved.