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Bye bye bugs: the best bug spray for kids

Safe and effective protection for little explorers.

It’s the season of icky, sticky bugs. Going outdoors with the kiddos is fun until you’re all covered in bug bites. And since we all know putting kids to sleep is hard, if they’re too busy itching to follow their bedtime routine then no one is getting any sleep.

One way to protect your child from insect bites is with insect repellants or, as we like to call them, bug sprays. The best bug spray for kids can repel biting insects including mosquitos, ticks and fleas but, they don’t kill them altogether. Essential oils such as citronella and peppermint are some of the plant-derived ingredients you’ll find in most bug sprays but other ingredients such as DEET and picaridin are doing the real work. The AAP recommends using DEET sparingly because of kids’ sensitive skin and the fact that it can cause rashes.

Picaridin is an effective alternative to DEET and also protects against biting insects. The concentration amount will determine how long the protection lasts. So if a product contains 5% picaridin, it can protect against mosquitoes and ticks for 3 to 4 hours. Since ticks love hanging out in the same places kids hang out (grassy areas), picaridin is one way to effectively repel ticks.

Finding kid-safe bug spray that works for your family can be a challenge but we’ve got doctor-recommended ingredients to look for and effective bug spray options for your little ones.

Learn more about safe bug sprays for kids, written by Diva Anwari and Sara Goldstein here.


September 27, 2023

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A 20% DEET Premium Controlled-Release Lotion will work well against mosquitoes, but Dr. Zimring says he prefers the 20% Picaridin lotion since it also protects against ticks, gnats, chiggers, and flies. (In both instances, he recommends Sawyer brand.)

Rachel Schultz
Editorial Director


Part of spending time outside means battling ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. For this, Nelson swears by permethrin.



And out of the products we tested, Dr. Zeichner highly recommends Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent.

Samson McDougall