What bug sprays are safe and best for kids?
Any bug spray containing near 20 to 30 percent DEET has been shown to be most effective and safe for both pregnant women and children older than 2 months.
Other bug sprays with different ingredients have been shown to be safe and relatively effective, too, but reputable scientific organizations, health authorities and consumer product testing companies have found that products with between 20 and 30 percent DEET are both safe and most effective at repelling certain insects, mainly mosquitoes, flies and ticks.
Specifically, Consumer Reports and The Sweethome, two reputable, well-known product testing publications, recommended the below particular sprays as the best, as of July 20, 2017.
Why do so many other websites say DEET is dangerous?
Because the science is complex, and some people like to sensationalize just to get attention.
There is a lot of misinformation spread about DEET. It does not actually kill insects, but instead confuses or bothers them enough that they will avoid it. There are now many products marketed as “natural” and “DEET-free,” but many of these products have been independently tested and shown to hardly work. If you’d like to learn more about alternative ingredients, please see the Consumer Reports and Environmental Working Group links below for more information on their effectiveness.
Why should I trust you?
In doing thorough research on this topic, we found these to be the most useful and factual sources. We recommend reading them if you’d like more in-depth information:
- “Is DEET Safe for Children” in The Journal of Family Practice.
- “Is DEET Safe to Use?” in Popular Science.
- “How DEET Works” in HowStuffWorks.
- “Insect Repellent Ratings” in Consumer Reports.
- “The Best Buy Repellent” in The Sweethome.
- “Bug spray poisoning” in Medline Plus, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- “DEET: Repellents: Protection against Mosquitoes, Tick and Other Arthropods” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- “EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of Zika” by the Environmental Working Group.
- “Risk assessments for the insect repellents DEET and picaridin” in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.
- “Does your inspect repellent repel insects?” in Slate.