Kids Health Info

Insect repellents - guidelines for safe use

  • DEET (Diethyltoluamide, N,N - diethyl - 3- methylbenzamide) remains the gold standard of currently available insect repellents. It is a broad spectrum agent that is effective against mosquitoes, biting flies, fleas and ticks (1).

    In most situations, products containing 10 per cent or less DEET are enough to prevent mosquito bites. In higher risk areas (e.g. areas where malaria, Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus and dengue fever occur) insect repellents with 15-30 per cent DEET should be used. Light coloured clothes covering to the wrists and ankles should be worn to reduce the possibility of being bitten, especially in areas where malaria is common. When travelling to high-risk areas, especially overseas, it is recommended that you get expert medical advice before starting your trip.

    DEET can be safely applied to cotton, wool and nylon but may damage spandex, rayon, acetate and pigmented leather. DEET can dissolve plastic and vinyl (e.g. eyeglass frames) (2).

    Guidelines for the safe use of insect repellents

    • Read the entire label before use - look carefully at the level of DEET in the product (see tables below).
    • Use the repellent only as directed by the manufacturer.
    • Roll-on preparations are preferable to sprays.
    • Apply sparingly (lightly) to exposed skin.
    • Do not use on cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
    • Do not apply to areas around the eyes or mouth.
    • Do not apply to the lips, hands or fingers of young children.
    • When returning indoors, wash repellent off skin with soap and water.
    • Store repellents out of the reach of children as ingestion may be harmful.

    Insect repellents suitable for use in children in low risk areas*

    Brand and description

    DEET content

    DEET content (%)

    Aeroguard for kids personal insect repellent roll on

    69.75 g/L

    7%

    Aeroguard family protection personal insect repellent lotion with sunscreen 30+ SPF

    71.4 g/L

    7%

    Black and Gold personal insect repellent

    30 g/kg

    3%

    RID Medicated Insect Repellent Kids + Antiseptic repellent

    70 g/L

    7%

    RID Medicated Insect Repellent Low Irritant + Antiseptic repellent

    100 g/L

    10%

    Insect repellents suitable for use in children in high risk areas*

    Brand and description

    DEET content

    DEET content (%)

    RID Medicated Insect Repellent Tropical Strength + Antiseptic repellent pump spray/aerosol/roll-on

    191 g/L

    19.5%

    RID Medicated Insect Repellent Antiseptic + Chamomile + Vitamin E repellent roll-on/pump spray/pump lotion/aerosol

    160 g/L

    16%

    Aeroguard family protection personal insect repellent

    190 g/kg

    19%

    Aeroguard family protection low irritant personal insect repellent

    190 g/kg

    19%

    Aeroguard family protection personal insect repellent lotion

    170 g/L

    17%

    *These lists provide only a selection of the many suitable repellents available from pharmacies and major supermarkets.

    To reduce mosquitoes from possible sources around the home:

    • Cover any containers that store water (including swimming pools) so that mosquitoes can't lay eggs.  Empty or drain containers when they are not being used.
    • Change water in bird baths and watering troughs at least once a week.
    • Seal and cover cesspools and septic tanks so that mosquitoes can't lay eggs.
    • Fill large holes in trees with sand or mortar.
    • Remove excess vegetation from garden ponds and stock with fish.
    • Do not over-water the garden.

    References:

    1. Fradin MS. Mosquitoes and mosquito repellents: a clinician's guide. Ann Intern Med 1998; 128: 931 - 940.
    2. Brown M, Hebert AA. Insect repellents: an overview. J Am Acad Dermatol 1997; 36: 243 - 9.
     

    Produced in consultation with the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) Pharmacy Department and Travel Clinic. First published Jan 2005. Updated February 2015.



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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.