Q. Are insect repellents safe for children? Are certain types safer than others?
Proper use of insect repellent is an important part of summer safety. DEET is one of the most common active ingredients in insect repellents. It has been used for more than 40 years and has a high safety profile.
The concentration of DEET varies between products and typically ranges from 10 percent to 30 percent. Using a higher concentration of DEET does not increase its efficacy, however it does make it effective for a longer period of time. For example, a product containing 10 percent DEET lasts about two hours, while 30 percent DEET is effective for six to eight hours.
Another chemical used in insect repellents is Permethrin; however, Permethrin should never be applied directly to the skin. It can be used to saturate clothing and camping equipment such as sleeping bags or tents.
Recently, researchers have studied the oil of lemon eucalyptus as an insect repellent. Insect repellents containing 20 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus can be as effective as those with low concentrations of DEET.
The main side effects of oil of lemon eucalyptus products were skin and eye irritation. These products have not been studied in malaria-infested areas and have not been approved as an alternative to DEET in these locations. They are also not approved for use in children who are younger than three years old.
A few other things to keep in mind when applying insect repellent on children: