The Best Way To Apply Bug Spray To Your Toddler, According To Science

Summertime is bittersweet — the sunshine and warm weather may make you want to head to the outdoors, but the bugs can make you run right back inside. As an adult, you can learn to swat and shoo bugs away, along with using strong insect repellents, but what about young kids? If you are planning a family hike or picnic this summer, you may need to know the best way to apply bug spray to your toddler.

One of the most common ingredients in insect repellents is DEET. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DEET is designed to prevent bugs from smelling you, which will prevent them from biting you. The EPA found DEET to be safe on human skin, and generally safe for children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further suggested that DEET can be used on children over 2 months of age, and can help prevent mosquito and tick bites that may cause diseases like the Zika virus and Lyme disease.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) noted that while DEET is safe for children, it’s important to use it in the right doses and in the right places. The APA recommended using products containing no more than 30 percent DEET on children, and spraying or applying it only on their clothing and exposed skin, preferably outdoors to avoid inhalation. They further recommended that you make sure to wash your child's skin and clothes after getting back home.

There are some repellent ingredients to look out for, however. The CDC recommended that insect repellents containing Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD) should be avoided for children under the age of 3. The National Capital Poison Center (NCPC) explained that repellents like Picardin, Citronella, OLE, and PMD can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions, and may not be as effective as DEET against certain bugs.

As the summers get hotter and longer, noted NPR, tick and mosquito populations will grow, so it’s good to be prepared. And as diseases like Zika, the West Nile Virus, and the Powassan Virus spread, it’s crucial to use an effective insect repellant on your toddler so that your family can enjoy the summer in peace.