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The Best Bug Sprays for Kids That Are Safe, Effective, and Easy to Apply, Tested by Verywell Family

DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and other anti-mosquito ingredients

When school is out for the summer, it usually means mosquitoes and other pesky bugs are, too. Mosquitoes and other biting insects are most active when the weather warms up, and being prepared with a safe and effective repellent can help you protect your kids all summer long.

When purchasing a bug spray for kids, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that parents choose one registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).1 This means the product and its active ingredient have been evaluated and approved for human safety and effectiveness by the EPA. Some of the most common EPA-registered mosquito repellents are made with DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Alternatively, you may want to consider a more natural repellent, such as one that contains citronella or soybean oil, which are exempt from EPA registration but have shown to be relatively effective in repelling mosquitoes for short periods of time. You should also keep in mind how often you’ll have to reapply the repellent, how effective it is, and if it has a distinct scent or feel.

To select the best bug sprays for kids, we consulted with two board-certified dermatologists, an entomologist, and a college professor who specializes in molecular biology and mosquito physiology. Then, we researched the top bug sprays on the market and had our editors test a variety of these products at home during their typical outdoor activities. During the testing process, our editors applied each repellent to their skin and took note of how they felt, how long they took to dry, and how they smelled. They also determined how well each repellent stayed on after getting their skin wet and how long they repelled mosquitoes when spending time outdoors. To ensure we provide the most reliable information regarding the best mosquito repellents for kids, a physician on our Medical Review Board reviewed this article for medical accuracy and integrity regarding skin-safe ingredients for children of all ages.

See the full list by Julie Evans on Verywell's website here.


December 3, 2023

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Verywell Family

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Sawyer has an alternative [to DEET] made with Picaridin, which works just as well without spoiling your clothes.

James Wong
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Zinzi Edmundson, the founder of Treehouse newsletter, who gardens in Maine, suggests spraying your shoes, especially (she uses Sawyer’s permethrin).

Laura Fenton

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I carry bottles of water, but I also have a Sawyer squeeze water filter. Also, if it’s cold, make sure you sleep with your water filter in your sleeping bag, so it doesn’t freeze.

Shilletha Curtis