Best Bug Repellant for Kids

Bug OffCutter Skinsations insect repellent bug spray

  • What: Cutter All in the Family bug repellant
  • When: 6 months and up
  • Why: Prevent bug bites
  • Where: Amazon or local stores

We feel lucky. Where we live in the city, we don’t get many bugs, even at our local parks. We might have a few mosquitoes in the backyard around sunset, but a couple citronella candles or tiki torches take good care of those. As long as we keep wading pools covered or empty, we never have many bug problems.

Which means I’m always surprised when we go camping or travel to other parts of the country. We had a double whammy last month of both, and once again I ended up researching the best bug repellants. As usual, I swear by the Environmentl Working Group, and they haven’t disappointed me with their guide to bug repellents. They also have a specific page dedicated to kids’ bug spray. It comes as no surprise that it depends on what kind of bugs you want to repel.

Bug bites healing on preschool child's legs

You can spot the bug bites still healing after multiple weeks on my son, who wasn’t wearing any repellent. We used Cutter after that and he got no more bug bites, but scratched these until they bled repeatedly.

For mosquitoes, which haunt us most often, I’ve come to accept that Deet, the chemical used in the majority of spray repellents, works. I just have to watch the concentration of the chemical. Anything over 20 percent is too much for my peace of mind. I prefer to apply bug spray more often rather than have higher concentrations of chemicals. It turns out that more Deet doesn’t equal fewer bug bites. It just means the repellant lasts longer, so you have to reapply less frequently. Deet usually works on ticks, too, but I always try to do a visual check of all the hidden crevices on my kids just to be sure. Bellies and behind the knees as well as along the hairline tend to hide the little buggers best.

I’ve decided DEET poses less risk than the various illnesses ticks and mosquitoes can transmit, and at least it’s well researched and has a long track record. Plus, unlike the illnesses we can get from bugs, I can wash the bug repellent off once my kids come inside again.

Since we don’t need to hang out in bug infested areas for entire days unless we’ve been unfortunate enough to camp in the midst of an infestation, the lower concentrations work fine for us. As long as my kids will let me put it on. The easiest brand to find at regular stores that offers a concentration less than 20 percent? Cutter. I went looking for their All Family formulation, but came home with the Skinsations version instead. Both have seven percent concentrations of DEET as the active chemical repellent.

The best, and safest, protection comes in fabric form. Long pants tucked into boots and long sleeves and a hat can go a long way towards preventing the bugs from reaching the skin in the first place. At night, mosquito nets make all the difference.

Luckily my kids love to wear fleece pants even when the thermostat goes past 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 C), and hate sunscreen, which means they often wear long sleeves, too.

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