How Can I Determine if a Mosquito Repellent is Safe for My Child?

Kate Chered
4 min readDec 28, 2023

To protect our children from the annoyance and potential health risks posed by insects, particularly mosquitoes, it’s crucial to understand which methods are safe and effective. While many products are available in the market, not all are suitable for children, given their sensitivity and health concerns.

What is the Impact of Conventional Insect Repellents on Children’s Health?

The most common insect repellents, such as spirals and anti-mosquito candles, are designed for outdoor use. These products produce an aromatic smoke intended to repel insects. Although considered safe for adults in short durations, the impact on children can be significant, potentially causing allergic reactions or even anaphylactic shock. The toxic substances released in the smoke are harmful, especially for young, developing bodies.

Similarly, concentrated essential oils, often deemed a natural alternative, can harm children’s health. In high concentrations, these oils can cause allergies, asthma attacks, and other severe reactions. The medical community generally advises against using products based on these oils for children under three years of age.

Repellents in creams, although similar to lotions and sprays, can be more dangerous. When applied, these creams penetrate the skin, potentially causing more harm than good, without offering additional protection against mosquitoes.

How to Choose and Use Child-Safe Insect Repellents Effectively

In choosing insect repellents for children, the focus should be on safety and effectiveness. Doctors and experts recommend several child-friendly options:

  1. Plant oil-based infusions: A mixture of a small amount of plant oil with a packet of vanillin, left to infuse for a day, can be safely applied to children’s clothing or skin before going outdoors. Plant oils can be substituted with baby creams for a gentler formulation.
  2. Aromatic plants: Plants like basil, vinegar, and lemon balm can mask the human scent, making it less attractive to mosquitoes. However, their effect is short-lived, diminishing after 20–30 minutes.
  3. Fish oil: The fishy odor is a natural mosquito repellent.
  4. Cedar oil: A few drops applied to clothing, cribs, or strollers can offer temporary but effective protection against insects.

It’s important to note that all natural remedies, especially essential oils with strong fragrances, are not recommended for children prone to allergies. Even in healthy children, they should be used cautiously.

Where to Find Mechanical Means of Protection and Their Advantages

Mechanical means of protection offer a more suitable option for children, with no health restrictions and cost savings. Their limitation lies in providing only local protection, such as during sleep.

Mechanical protections include:

  • Mosquito nets: Fitted on windows and doors, they provide a physical barrier against mosquitoes.
  • Protective clothing: Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants can physically prevent mosquitoes from biting.

In conclusion, when protecting children from insects, it’s vital to choose methods that are safe and effective. While many commercial products are available, not all are suitable for young children. Natural and mechanical methods offer safer alternatives, but they must be selected and used judiciously to ensure they are both effective and do not pose any health risks.


How Can I Determine if a Mosquito Repellent is Safe for My Child?

To ensure the safety of a mosquito repellent for your child, check for age recommendations on the product label. Avoid products containing high concentrations of DEET or essential oils for children, especially under three years. Opt for natural or mechanical methods, such as plant-based infusions or protective clothing. Always perform a patch test on a small skin area to check for allergic reactions before full application.

What Are the Potential Health Risks of Using Conventional Insect Repellents for Children?

Conventional insect repellents, such as spirals and anti-mosquito candles, emit smoke containing toxic substances that can cause allergic reactions, respiratory issues, or even anaphylactic shock in children. Concentrated essential oils, often used in natural repellents, can also trigger allergies and asthma attacks. Cream-based repellents might penetrate the skin and cause adverse reactions.

Where Can I Find Child-Safe Insect Repellent Alternatives?

Child-safe insect repellent alternatives can be found in natural product stores and online marketplaces or can be homemade. Look for products with plant-based ingredients, such as vanillin-infused plant oils or baby cream. Also, consider mechanical methods like mosquito nets and protective clothing, available at home goods or outdoor specialty stores.

When Is the Best Time to Apply Insect Repellent on Children?

The best time to apply insect repellent on children is right before they are exposed to an environment where mosquitoes are prevalent, such as before going outdoors for a walk or play. Reapply as necessary, particularly after swimming or excessive sweating, but always adhere to the product’s recommended usage guidelines.

How Effective Are Natural Insect Repellents Compared to Chemical Ones?

Natural insect repellents can be effective but may require more frequent application than chemicals. Their efficacy depends on the specific ingredients and their concentration. Natural repellents like plant oil infusions or aromatic plants are safer for children but may not last as long as chemical repellents containing DEET.

Originally published at on December 28, 2023.