Quantcast

EWG’s Top Three Bug Repellent Recommendations for Kids

Health + Wellness
Kerkez / iStock / Getty Images

By Nicole Ferox

It's that time of year: Mosquitoes and ticks are out in full force, and so are all the latest bug repellent products claiming to keep them at bay. So what bug repellent ingredients do Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists recommend for kids? Our top picks are DEET, Picaridin and IR3535. These ingredients have low safety concerns and offer a high level of protection from a variety of biting insects and ticks.


But check the bottle's active ingredients for concentration percentages. The product should contain a maximum of 10 percent DEET, 20 percent Picaridin or 20 percent IR3535 for children.

One exception: If you're using DEET to protect kids in an area known for ticks' carrying Lyme disease bacteria or for Zika outbreaks, a concentration of 20 percent to 30 percent may be appropriate. (See our Guide to Bug Repellents for details and links to the Centers for Disease Control's list of insect-borne outbreaks, below.)

Contrary to popular belief, bug repellents with higher concentrations — such as old-school 100 percent DEET — are not necessarily more effective and may even be harmful. To avoid that risk, we recommend steering clear of DEET products with concentrations more than 30 percent. The concentration determines the protection time. If there's no risk of bug-borne disease in your area, choose a spray with a lower concentration and reapply if necessary.

Can I really use DEET? I thought it was dangerous.

Yes, DEET is a reasonable choice when used as directed, even for children. Still, after reviewing the evidence, EWG researchers concluded that it is best to use the lowest effective concentration of DEET, even though it's effective and generally safer than is commonly assumed.

Picaridin is a great alternative to DEET. It effectively repels both mosquitoes and ticks and, compared to other repellents, is less likely to irritate eyes and skin.

EWG research indicates that, in general, "natural" bug repellent ingredients like castor, cedar, citronella, clove, geraniol, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary and/or soybean oils are often not the best choice.

How do I know if there’s a risk of insect-borne disease in my area?

Ask your pediatrician or check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maps listed below. If you're traveling internationally, check the CDC website for information about the Zika virus.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Ten feet of water flooded 20 percent of this Minot, North Dakota neighborhood in June 2011. DVIDSHUB / CC BY 2.0

By Jared Brey

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle last October, it killed at least 43 people, caused an estimated $25 billion in damage and destroyed thousands of homes.

Read More Show Less
A protestor holds up her hand covered with fake oil during a demonstration on the U.C. Berkeley campus in May 2010. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The University of California system will dump all of its investments from fossil fuels, as the Associated Press reported. The university system controls over $84 billion between its pension fund and its endowment. However, the announcement about its investments is not aimed to please activists.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Forest fire continues to blaze in Indonesesia on Sept. 18. WAHYUDI / AFP / Getty Images

Nearly 200 people have been arrested in Indonesia over their possible connections to the massive wildfires raging in the nation's forest, officials said this week.

Read More Show Less

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

World leaders have a formidable task: setting a course to save our future. The extreme weather made more frequent and severe by climate change is here. This spring, devastating cyclones impacted 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Record heatwaves are hitting Europe and other regions — this July was the hottest month in modern record globally. Much of India is again suffering severe drought.

Read More Show Less
Covering Climate Now / YouTube screenshot

By Mark Hertsgaard

The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A new rule that ends limits for hog slaughtering speeds could increase animal suffering, advocates warn. kickers / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Trump's U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalized a new hog slaughtering rule Tuesday that environmental and food safety advocates warn could harm animals, plant workers and public health, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less
Prehistoric and historic walrus skulls, tusks and bone fragments often wash ashore on the southern coast of Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland. Hilmar J. Malmquist

A unique subpopulation of ancient walrus in Iceland was likely hunted to extinction by Vikings shortly after arrival to the region, according to new research.

Read More Show Less
Drivers make their way on the US 101 freeway on Aug. 30 in Los Angeles, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

In its latest move to undermine action on the climate crisis, the Trump administration will formally rescind California's waiver to set stricter auto emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.

Read More Show Less