For a few years there has been talk of the main ingredient of most insect repellents, DEET, being unsafe especially for children. People began turning to natural insect repellents that didn't contain chemicals. Now you can find both natural and DEET insect repellents at the stores like Walmart. So, it can be a bit confusing as to which one to get. With a family camping trip coming up, I decided to do some research on DEET to help me find the best insect repellent for my family.
DEET is the active ingredient in a lot insect repellents. It's applied to human skin to repel insects, not kill them. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, DEET is not a health concern as long as insect repellents containing DEET are used by following the label's directions and consumers take proper precautions like:
Do not apply to open wounds, cuts or irritated skin.
Do not apply to children's hands or near their mouths and eyes.
Do not allow children to handle insect repellents.
Only used repellent on exposed skin and/or clothing (not under clothing).
Only use the amount needed and not more.
When you go indoors, wash off repellent with soap and water.
Do not spray indoors.
Spray repellent on hands and apply to face. Do not spray directly on face.
During my search I read a few articles that state that insect repellents with DEET should not be used on children under the age of 2 months old. Also, it is recommended that no more than 30% of DEET be used on children. The amount of DEET does not make a repellent more effective but, it does make it last longer. So, if you will only be outside for a few hours you can use a product with a lower percentage of DEET. Insect repellents can always be reapplied but, do read the labels instructions for more information.
Natural repellents do not contain chemicals like DEET. However, they do not last as long and leave a greasy layer on your skin that may be tempting to wipe off. Natural repellents tend to use oil of eucalyptus but the labels read that it should not be used on children under the age of 3 years.
With this information in hand, it was time for me to decide whether to go with a natural insect repellent or one with DEET. Since I have young children (including a 2 year old), I thought it best to try a repellent with a low percentage of DEET.
After reading the reviews on insect repellents on ConsumerSearch.com, I decided that I would try OFF! Family Care Smooth & Dry. It has 15% of DEET, which is in the recommended safety range for children. It dries quickly, doesn't feel greasy and it is long-lasting (about 8 hours). However, since it contains DEET, we'll have to make sure to wash it off once we go indoors. Also, it can damage synthetic materials. With these things in mind I do still believe this is the best choice for our family.