Mosquito Repellants

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Healthy spray for evening mosquitos?

August 2010

we have a 16mth old... traveling to a place known to have evening mosquitoes... Can anyone recommend a healthy spray to use? Has anyone ever used Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Pump Insect Repellent - from REI? Thank you! john

In Bali, I used the Burt's Bees stuff that comes in the metal bottle. I think it has lavender and eucalyptus oil in it. My three-year-old and I survived two weeks with perhaps zero bites. I applied the oil day and night. Bite Free

I'm pregnant and planning a vacation to a tropical climate so recently looked into safe bugsprays. I found this very useful article on the NRDC website: It mentions that use of lemon eucalyptus is not advised on children under three. I ended up buying a spray with Picaridin and used it on myself in Yosemite recently and was quite happy with its effectiveness. Ashley

At the health food store we got Citronel Oil. Mixed w/water in a squirt bottle. When we were camping, the mosquitoes stayed away. Mosquitoes usually attack my daughter & myself, and we had only a bite or two A

I have used that lemon/eucalyptus spray from REI- recently, in fact. I usually get eaten alive when we visit my husband's family in greece, unless I use something with DEET in it- which I know is so bad. We were there last month, and the REI spray worked pretty well- I was surprised. And my sister-in-law, who is very allergic to the bites, used it as well. betsy

Mosquito Repellent - Effective but Safe

April 2010

We will be traveling to a mosquito-y place in a few weeks, and I am looking for recommendations of safe (non-toxic) but effective mosquito repellent for my 9 month old and 4 yr old. thanks! Bug-Free

According to the factsheet on the ''OurWaterOurWorld'' website (which deals with less toxic methods for dealing with pests):

''Use insect repellents. Studies show that DEET-based repellents are the most effective.* (DEET has been in use for 40 years. After nearly 8 billion human applications, fewer than 50 cases of serious toxic effects have been documented in the medical literature.) Don't use a stronger or longer-lasting product than you need. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that repellents with a DEET concentration of 30% are safe for both children and adults, but that a concentration of 10% can be used on children if there is concern about potential risks and the threat of mosquito-borne disease is low. Apply repellent to exposed skin and wash treated skin with soap and water after coming indoors. Do not apply to infants under 2 months old, and follow all directions on the product container.

Bite Blocker, made from soybean, coconut, and geranium oils, is the next most effective repellent. In one study, it compared very favorably with a 6.65% concentration of DEET for repelling mosquitoes for 31/2 hours. Note: If mosquito-borne disease is a serious concern, other repellents should not be relied upon for prolonged protection.

Wristbands treated with insect repellent have been shown to be ineffective since repellents protect only a few centimeters from the site of application. Ultrasonic devices are also ineffective. Products containing other plant oils, such as citronella, have been found to provide little if any protection.''

Here's a link tot he full factsheet: L

Sorry, this is probably not what you want to hear: Our experience is that anything less than Deet is just not working. Yes, I hate having to use it, but it beats being eaten by mosquitos (rates of ten bites per minute at some places). In most cases it was sufficient to put a little bit on the sleeves (at the wrist), the neck of the sweater/shirt/jacket and the underside of the hat. Just be careful, some fabrics don't like it. In extreme cases we needed some on the cheeks, the neck, the forehead and the back of our hands. Just get one of the dispensers with an applicator so you don't need to get it on your fingers. For small kids I would try to use mosquito nets wherever possible. Deet lover/hater

I just used Bite Blocker for the first time on our vacation in Mexico and was very happy with the results. My 5 yr. old is highly allergic to mosquitoes and is a mosquito magnet. He still got a few bites but nothing like it would have been without Bite Blocker. My 3 yr old and their 4 yr old cousin got no bites. I used this repellent due to the research review on as well as user reviews on Amazon and From the reviews it seemed effective for about 90% of people who tried it. And the biggest selling point for me was that Bite Blocker was reviewed as the ''Safest insect repellent for kids'' by Consumer Search ( - search on repellent). According to that review, Bite Blocker is: Considered safe for all ages and for pregnant women. Bite Blocker uses only food-grade plant-based ingredients, including soybean oil and geranium oil. It is effective against black flies as well as mosquitoes and ticks. As with most natural insect repellents, protection time varies greatly among individuals, but it averages 90 minutes to two hours, and Bite Blocker is safe to reapply as needed. Hope that helps!

The natural citrus oil based repellants that you can find at health food stores or whole foods work well. You can also dry the clothes you are going to wear with eucalyptus ''nuts'' - just throw several in to the dryer as the clothes are near done - it is a great repellant! Maggie C

Repel Lemon Eucalpytus is supposed to be as effective as DEET. I bought mine online (, I think), but I saw it at Target at the beginning of summer, and REI probably has it. It is natural,but the smell is initially VERY strong. I spray it directly on my boys' legs, but for their hands and neck I spray it on my hands and rub it into them. I only apply it outdoors, and wash my hands immediately afterward. Here is the CDC page Here is an alternative medicine page Lemon Eucalyptus- works & stinks

We go camping every year in an area with lots of mosquitoes. Two of my kids, plus me, are very attractive to mosquitos. So I have learned not to mess around with stuff that MIGHT work but turns out not to. We use products with DEET. But I didn't know as much about it as I thought I knew. I just found a really informative FAQ on the CDC website about West Nile Virus, which repellents are effective, and what is safe:

Here is the CDC's page on insect repellents:

Some highlights:
- Four ingredients have been shown to repel mosquitoes: DEET, Picariden, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (PMD), IR3535
- PMD and IR3535 are ''natural'' (found in plants) but the PMD has to be synthesized - the ''pure'' essential oil hasn't been tested.
- Picariden is new, not available yet in California
- All four repel mosquitos with about the same effectiveness
- Concentration matters, so check the label. For all of them, the higher the percentage, the longer it lasts. So if you are using less than 10% concentration, expect to re-apply after 1-2 hours. 23% lasts for 5 hours.
- PMD is not recommended for under 3 years; the others are OK under 3 yrs but don't use on infants under 2mos
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says DEET at 30% is safe when used according to instructions. They haven't yet looked at the safety of PMD, Picariden, IR3535
- No serious illness has been linked to the use of DEET in children
- Guidelines: don't put it on their hands, don't let them apply it, for face: spray on your hands and then apply to their face
- Works on clothing as well as skin
- OK to use with sunscreen but don't use a product with sunscreen/repellent combined I hate mosquitos

Chemical-free Mosquito Repellent?

May 2003

We are taking our 2.5 yr old camping this summer. I am anticipating lots of mosquitos due to the late rains. Can anyone suggest a good chemical-free mosquito repellent especially for kids and pregnant women? -hoping for no bites

Cactus juice is great-it even smells good! We have tried many, and it actually works and is made from cactus juice. They have a website I don't know if there are any local suppliers, but it is worth ordering it. monica

We've had good luck with the Avon Skin-So-Soft sunscreen/bug repellent combo (the bottle is in the camping equip. so I don't have the exact product name). You have to apply it more frequently than you would a DEET-filled repellent, but that's a trade-off I'm willing to make. Janet K

I went to bug-ridden Florida last summer, and use Burt's Bees Lemongrass repellent. Totally safe, and used it on me and my baby. Hardly a bite. I'm going out to get some more tomorrow! Amy

Hi. Unfortunately, I don't have a good recommendation. Several years ago, when we went to Yosemite and camping with my then-4- year-old, I brought along several ''natural'' repellants, and none worked well at all. He was (and is) quite sensitive to mosquito bites, and ended up with a very puffy face. Now, if we do an outdoorsy overnight, we bring along a mosquito net (available at REI, and others). You have to be sure it is tucked in all around. If we are outside in a very buggy place, we use a repellent with about 8% DEET which works fine, though I don't know if I would do that with a child as young as yours (the Pediatric Association folks used to say maximum 10% DEET for kids, but according to Consumer Reprts, they now say 30% - higher than necessary, I think). I hope others have had luck with some of the newer options. R.K.

We are expecting to see West Nile Virus (WNV) in California this year. Although the attack rate may not be high, the consequences of the disease can be long-lasting and debilitating. For fact-based information on effective insect repellants, and how to reduce your risk of becoming a target for WNV, I recommend visiting the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( m), the California Department of Health and Human Services WNV website (, and DPRs website regarding insect repellant usage ( Amy

Insect Repellant for Toddler

August 2001

Mom and Dad are taking 2.5 year old to the Midwest for a Great Lakes northwoods experience which will no doubt include hungry mosquitoes and other related critters. We'd like to avoid the Off variety repellent and would be most interested in any recommendations for more natural based, and effective, alternatives. John

We just returned from a week in the North Woods in Wisconsin and we used All Terrain: Natural herbal armor insect repellent. It's DEET free and you can get it in a lotion or a creamy spray. It worked for us, two adults and a three year old. We were lucky, however; the mosquitos weren't nearly as bad as we expected. Hope you have good luck too. (If you happen to be going through Madison on your way up north, the Willy Street Co-op on Williamson Street carries All Terrain.) Susan

Definately try Skin So Soft by Avon. Very safe, smells better than regular bug repellants, and works. I spent a few months in Costa Rica and learned that normal repellents make me break out in a horribly itchy rash, so I was reduced to using Skin So Soft in what I swear was the bug capital of the world. Worked as well for me as anyone else's repellent seemed to. Michelle

My husband and I tried using all the natural stuff available to us at the time when we were in the back country in Montana four years ago. The mosquitos traveled in large herds and could penetrate one layer of a medium thickness of clothing! We ended up high tailing it out of the back country and chanced upon a mercantile in the middle of nowhere. There we bought something with DEET in it so that we could continue our camping trip. We have a two year old now and I abhor the idea of putting DEET on him. But the idea of him getting eaten alive by mosquitos is not good either. Thus far we have intentionally avoided places where the mosquitos are bad. My only suggestion if I were in you shoes and had no choice, is to make sure the DEET came in contact as little as possible with your child's skin. The way to do this is to dress the child in two layers of clothing. The top layer can be sprayed with a strong repellent containing DEET. Use the natural stuff on his/her exposed skin and hope for the best. The key with the natural stuff is to reapply-reapply. Reuse the cover clothing each day if you can, using fresh clothing underneath. Perhaps a bandana sprayed with a natural repellent and wrapped around their neck would be useful. Good luck to you. Marianne

Citronella repellants are the best bet. You can find them at natural food stores, at least in areas where there are insects to repel. Robbie

We've had good luck using Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus, an insect repellent and sunblock (SPF 30) combo. The SSS formula is supposed to repel mosquitoes, deer ticks, black flies, gnats, no-seeums and biting midges, but I can only confirm the mosquito part. Janet

I have used insect repellents that are DEET-free (I think Cutter brand has this feature) on my children. I have also used the Avon Skin so Soft brand - they have a combination sunscreen/insect repellent that works wonderfully - I think you can get the Avon product at shopping mall if they have a kiosk or order it on the Web. Jennifer

Avon Skin-so-soft bath oil works great! I use it too, just put it in a spray bottle. I don't know where to get it these days- check the web, or call 411 and ask for Avon. Lisa

REI carries an insect repellant WITHOUT Deet (sp?) which is the active ingredient in a lot of repellants. It has worked quite well for my family. Also, I know a lot of people swear by Avon's Skin So Soft cream as an effective repellant. Daphne

Mosquito repellant safe for children

May 2000

We're planning a trip with my folks to South Carolina where there are often lots of mosquitoes. Can anyone recommend an insect repellant that's safe to use on small children (my daughter and her cousin are one year old)? And where would we get it? Thanks! Piper

The latest Consumer Reports has a very thorough article on insect repellents, effectiveness and safety.

Mary Ann
This comes from the land of 10,000 lakes, where the mosquito is known as the state bird. (We are moving to the East Bay shortly, partly to escape the bugs.) Parents out here swear by Avon's Skin-so-Soft as a mosquito repellant for small children, which you get by locating your local Avon Lady. There is no scientific data supporting its efficacy, but at least it is harmless. We used it and it appeared to help. Mosquito repellants advertised for children typically have a smaller percentage of the active ingredient, DEET, which can cause convulsions in infants and very small children if they are exposed to very, very large amounts of it. We also used this, with no ill effects. If you look hard (or have your in-laws do it out there, where you would be more likely to find it) you can even get a version that combines with sunscreen--also a very good idea during the summer in the South.

I can't recommend any but would like to share my daughter's experience When she was 17 months old someone lent me a bit of insect repellant which contained citronella. This person said she used it all the time on her kids, and I'm sure many kids can use it. However, my daughter developed a reaction to it that landed her in intensive care and was an extremely frightening experience for all of us. We were on vacation at the time in Mexico, far from any hospitals-it was a nightmare, basically her system started to shut down. I mention this so that you don't try new insect repellant products on your children when you are on a trip, possibly far from doctors etc. and just to be aware that any repellant type product, even natural ones can be potentially harmful if your child reacts to it. The pediatricians said that children absorb chemicals through their skin very easily and since their systems are smaller, even a small amount can be toxic to them, again if they react. While I'm sure my daughter is in the minority, I just wanted to share this with other parents.

I don't know of any insect repellent that is safe for anyone but I've heard that when you eat Brewer's Yeast your skin has a smell that mosquitos don't like. I also had heard the same for dogs and fleas. I used to feed it to my dog daily and she never had a bad flea problem. I eat Brewer's yeast every morning and I don't seem to get bitten when other people do....who knows!!!!

I grew up in Alabama, and I can tell you this: don't mess around when you are talking about mosquitos. Get an over-the-counter repellant for your kids and use it. Mosquitos in the South have been known to carry all sorts of nasty diseases, including encephalitis. You don't want to take any chances getting bit. Not to mention that those bites itch the living daylights out of your poor little child.