Feature Archive

Insect Repellents for Kids

WebMD Feature

June 26, 2000 -- DEET, the chemical found in most commercial insect repellents, works by confusing a bug's sense of smell, and it's considered the most effective tick repellent available. The National Institutes of Health recommends applying DEET repellents on any exposed skin before going outside.

While there have been concerns about the use of DEET on children, research shows it is safe when used properly. According to Mark S. Fradin, MD, a North Carolina dermatologist whose report on insect repellents appeared in the June 1998 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, only a few cases of severe reactions in adults and children have been reported in the decades since DEET has been on the market, though he says the chemical is potentially harmful in large amounts. DEET is absorbed into the body through the skin, and there are rare cases among all ages in which frequent and large exposures of the chemical have led to serious central nervous system problems, from confusion to seizures, or even death.

To be safe, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children use products with 10% DEET or less. (Many insect repellents contain much higher concentrations, particularly those labeled "extra-strength.") You should also follow these precautions:

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