How DEET Works


Is DEET safe for children?
A father protects his child from West Nile virus. 
A father protects his child from West Nile virus. 
Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images

Kids play outside a lot, and you don't want them coming in with­ itchy welts all over their bodies. But is it safe to cover your child's skin in DEET?

It is safe -- as long as you're careful about how you apply the chemical. When using DEET on or around children, use the following precautions:

  • Don't apply DEET to children under two months of age. Their skin can absorb too much of the chemical. Doctors believe that after two months of age, though, skin permeability is similar to an adult's [source: AAP].
  • For safety's sake, use the minimum amount possible when applying DEET to a child. This is actually a good rule of thumb for anyone using an insect repellent.
  • Insect repellents, like any chemical compound, should be stored away from children.
  • Don't let a child apply DEET -- spray it on your hands and do it for him or her. This prevents possible overuse.

If you notice an adverse reaction, it's safest to contact Poison Control for advice. You can gently wash the affected area with soap and water, and bring the insect repellent with you to the medical office.

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Sources

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  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. " DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) Chemical Technical Summary for Public Health and Public Safety Professionals." Department of Health and Human Services. Dec. 6, 2004. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/consultations/deet/health-effects.html
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