The 10 Best Bug Sprays for Kids in 2021

Keep your family safe from bites and diseases

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With warm summer nights come mosquitos and other bugs that are quick to nibble. The bites are uncomfortable enough for adults, but little ones can find the itching or pain unbearable, which is why it’s helpful to have some kid-safe bug spray on hand throughout the summer. When purchasing a bug spray for your family, take a peek at the ingredients to ensure you're choosing one that you're comfortable with.

Not all bug sprays are created equal, though, so we’ve gathered some of the best ones that are both safe and effective for kids.

Our Top Picks
Rather than leaving a greasy or slimy film on the skin, this bug spray leaves the skin feeling soft.
The formula is kid-friendly, applies easily, and has a slight citrus smell until it has fully dried.
Once applied to the skin, this bug spray does need to dry or be rubbed into the skin and provides six hours of protection.
Comes with 15 wipes, which are rubbed directly on the skin, are formulated not to leave a greasy or oily residue behind.
For kids who are sensitive to smells, this bug spray is formulated to be unscented without compromising its effectiveness.
Made with natural repellents including lemongrass, citronella, and rosemary oils.
You can avoid spraying or wiping down your child altogether with these bracelets that are designed to repel mosquitos.
Best for Sensitive Skin:
Hello Bello Organic Bug Spray at Walmart
Completely plant-based, DEET-free, and hypoallergenic so it’s great for kids with sensitive skin.
For a “two birds with one stone” option, this bug spray is made in combination with broad-spectrum SPF 34 sunscreen.
Contains soybean oil, rosemary oil, citronella oil, geranium oil, cedarwood oil, peppermint oil, and lemongrass oil.

Best Overall: OFF! Family Care Insect & Mosquito Repellent

OFF! Family Care Insect & Mosquito Repellent
Pros
  • Safe for children

  • Leaves skin feeling soft

Cons
  • Contains fragrance

Available in single or double packs, this bug spray is formulated with 15 percent DEET for optimal protection. Rather than leaving a greasy or slimy film on the skin, this bug spray goes on almost like a powder and leaves the skin feeling soft. While it is safe to use on children, it should be stored out of their reach.

Active Ingredient: 15 percent DEET | Application Type: Spray | Bug Protection Type: Mosquitoes, biting flies, gnats, ticks, chiggers, and fleas

Best DEET-Free: REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
Pros
  • Plant-based

  • Kid-friendly

Cons
  • Strong smell

This bug spray is DEET-free but still effective. Its active ingredient is picaridin (20 percent) which protects from mosquitos, chiggers, gnats, and a variety of biting flies for between 8-12 hours. The formula is kid-friendly, applies easily, and has a slight citrus smell until it has fully dried. 

Active Ingredient: 20 percent Picaridin | Application Type: Spray | Bug Protection Type: Mosquitoes, biting flies, gnats, ticks, chiggers, and fleas

Best With DEET: OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray & Mosquito Repellent

OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray & Mosquito Repellent
Pros
  • Powder-dry formula

  • Long-lasting protection

Cons
  • Contains fragrance

For camping trips or playing in wooded areas, this bug spray offers great protection. It contains 25 percent DEET and a single application can protect your child from mosquitos, ticks, chiggers, gnats, and flies for up to six hours. Once applied to the skin, this bug spray does need to dry or be rubbed into the skin.

Active Ingredient: 25 percent DEET | Application Type: Spray | Bug Protection Type: Mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, gnats, and flies

What Experts Say

“Chemical products with DEET provide the best protection against insect bites, while permethrin is most effective against ticks,“–Dr. Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, author of The Working Mom Blueprint and founder of www.modernmommydoc.com.

Best Wipes: Cutter Cutter All Family Mosquito Wipes

cutter-wipes
Pros
  • Non-oily/greasy

  • Convenient

Cons
  • Packaging difficult to close

If your child does better with wipes than with a spray, these ones offer great protection from mosquitos. Perfect to pack in their backpack for summer camp, each pack comes with 15 wipes that are rubbed directly on the skin. The wipes are formulated not to leave a greasy or oily residue behind and contain 7.15 percent DEET. 

Active Ingredient: 7.15 percent DEET | Application Type: Wipe | Bug Protection Type: Mosquitoes

Best Fragrance-Free: OFF! FamilyCare Insect Repellent

OFF! FamilyCare Insect Repellent IV, Unscented
Pros
  • Unscented

  • No greasy/oily residue

Cons
  • Not plant-based

For kids who are sensitive to smells, this bug spray is formulated to be unscented without compromising its effectiveness. It contains 7 percent DEET and doesn’t leave a greasy or oily residue behind. It’s great for use in everyday areas like the backyard, the beach, or the playground. The best part is that the spray can also repel bugs on the outside of your clothes so your kiddos don't carry any creepy crawlers home.

Active Ingredient: 7 percent DEET | Application Type: Spray | Bug Protection Type: Mosquitoes that may carry Zika, Dengue, or West Nile viruses, ticks, biting flies, gnats, no-see-ums, and chiggers

Best Natural: Badger Anti-Bug Shake & Spray

Badger Anti-Bug Shake & Spray
Pros
  • Budget-friendly

  • Formulated with natural ingredients

Cons
  • Has to be rubbed into skin

This bug spray is completely DEET-free and formulated with all-natural ingredients. It’s made with natural repellents including lemongrass, citronella, and rosemary oils. Once applied, this bug spray needs to be rubbed into the skin, and then it will provide up to three hours of protection against mosquitos. 

Active Ingredient: Lemongrass, citronella, and rosemary oils | Application Type: Spray | Bug Protection Type: Mosquitoes

Best Wearable: Cliganic 10 Pack Mosquito Repellent Bracelets

Cliganic 10 Pack Mosquito Repellent Bracelets
Pros
  • Avoid spraying/wiping

  • Reusable

Cons
  • Unsafe for children under 3 years old

You can avoid spraying or wiping down your child altogether with these bracelets that are designed to repel mosquitos. They use a completely DEET-free formula and instead rely on natural repellents including geraniol oil, citronella oil, and lemongrass oil. These bracelets have a one-size-fits-all design, are waterproof, and come in a multi-color pack of 10.

Active Ingredient: Geraniol oil, citronella oil, and lemongrass oil | Application Type: Wearable | Bug Protection Type: Mosquitoes

What Experts Say

“Use netting over a stroller, crib, or play gym to protect the youngest babies from mosquitoes,”–Dr. Dyan Hes, MD, Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics.

Best for Sensitive Skin: Hello Bello Organic Bug Spray

HelloBello Bug Spray
Pros
  • Hypoallergenic

  • Plant-based

Cons
  • Must be reapplied every two hours

This bug spray formula is completely plant-based, DEET-free, and hypoallergenic, so it’s great for kids with sensitive skin. It repels mosquitos for up to four hours with ingredients like citronella oil, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, cedarwood oil, and thyme oil, and does not leave a strong chemical smell behind. 

Active Ingredient: Citronella oil, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, cedarwood oil, and thyme oil | Application Type: Spray | Bug Protection Type: Mosquitoes

What Experts Say

Do not apply repellent directly to a child’s face. Rub it on your hands and then apply to the face, avoiding the eyes, nose, and mouth,”–Dr. Hes.

Best With Sunscreen: Badger SPF 34 Anti-Bug Sunscreen Cream

Badger SPF 34 Anti-Bug Sunscreen Cream
Pros
  • Contains sunscreen

  • Water-resistant

Cons
  • Costly

For a “two birds with one stone” option, this bug spray is made in combination with broad-spectrum SPF 34 sunscreen. The formula is DEET-free and contains ingredients like organic beeswax, lemongrass, and extra virgin olive oil. Additionally, it is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes after application and offers four hours of mosquito protection. 

Active Ingredient: Organic beeswax, lemongrass, extra virgin olive oil, and zinc oxide | Application Type: Lotion | Bug Protection Type: Mosquitoes

What Experts Say

"Parents should avoid products that combine DEET and sunscreen because applying the sunscreen multiple times may also mean applying too much of the insect repellent and because the DEET can make the sunscreen protective factor (SPF) less effective,"–Dr. Casares.

Best Organic: Babyganics DEET Free Travel Size Bug Spray

Pros
  • Organic

  • Safe for sensitive skin

Cons
  • Only two hours of protection

This bug spray is made from all-natural, plant-based ingredients and is 95.25 percent organic. Its DEET-free formula is safe for sensitive skin and contains soybean oil, rosemary oil, citronella oil, geranium oil, cedarwood oil, peppermint oil, and lemongrass oil. This bug spray provides up to two hours of protection from mosquitos and is available to purchase as a single or double pack.

Active Ingredient: Rosemary oil, citronella oil, geranium oil, cedarwood oil, peppermint oil, and lemongrass oil | Application Type: Spray | Bug Protection Type: Mosquitoes

Final Verdict

OFF! Family Care Insect Repellent (view at Amazon) ranks highest on our list because of the powder-like formula that is easy to apply, doesn’t need to be rubbed into the skin, and dries instantly. 

What to Look for When Buying Bug Spray for Kids

Ingredients

Your child’s bug spray may contain a variety of ingredients, but pediatrician Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, notes “parents should avoid using products with more than 30 percent DEET” in them because, as pediatrician Dyan Hes, MD, explains, bug sprays with “more than [this do] not offer better protection". Another ingredient to be on the lookout for is permethrin.

While this ingredient is very effective at preventing tick bites, “Permethrin is an insecticide and it should not be applied directly to the skin,” says Dr. Hes, “but it is very safe in treated clothing". Understanding ingredients in bug sprays can be difficult, so here’s a breakdown of three different ingredients.

DEET

DEET is a chemical that’s been used as the most common ingredient in bug repellents for more than 50 years. There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding DEET because it’s a chemical, but it’s actually very safe to use as long as you’re using it correctly. 

  • You only need to apply it once during a single day unless you’re spending time in a heavily wooded area.
  • There is a drawback, though—some people do experience skin reactions from DEET, especially if it’s sprayed too close to the eyes.

Natural

There are many parents and caregivers who prefer to go the natural route when picking out bug spray for kids. 

  • Natural ingredients, like citronella and lemon eucalyptus oil, are perfect for light protection against mosquitoes.
  • If you plan on being in an area where mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses are present, though, you’ll want a stronger repellent. 

Picaridin

This pesticide repels insects, ticks, and chiggers, making them not want to bite.

  • Repellents with this ingredient can work as well as repellents containing DEET. 
  • While it is considered non-toxic to birds, it is moderately toxic to fish.

Effectiveness

You want to be sure that whatever bug spray you purchase for your family is actually effective at preventing bug bites. You can do this by doing your due diligence and reading user reviews. If you are going to be around a variety of bugs, like ticks and chiggers, DEET-based options are going to be the most effective. Dr. Casares notes these products “provide the best protection against insect bites.” This is especially important if you and your family will be outside for a long period of time. 

Application

Bug sprays come in many different forms, like spray, lotion, wipes, and wearables, so it can be tough to decide which application method works best for you and your family. 

Spray: Typically coming in some type of a bottle, you simply spray the repellent on any areas with exposed skin, or clothing, too. This method is easy to use and typically does not have to be rubbed into the skin. 

Lotion: Similar to applying sunscreen and regular lotion, you rub the lotion into any areas of the body not covered by clothes. You can typically cover more areas of the body when applying via a lotion method.

Wipes: Think of baby wipes, but in bug repellent form, as all you have to do is take a wipe and rub it along the areas with exposed skin. These are convenient since you can carry them in a bag or purse easily.

Wearables: Bug repellents that are wearable come in the form of jewelry-like products, such as a bracelet, and are filled with more natural ingredients, like citronella. These are ideal for kids as they are more likely to forget to apply a bug spray or do so ineffectively. However, they are a less effective method of insect repellent.

FAQs

Is bug repellent safe for kids?

Bug repellents are safe for kids over two months old. For young babies, Dr. Hes suggests parents “use netting over a stroller, crib, or play gym to protect [them] from mosquitos.”

For older kids, it’s safe to apply bug spray to exposed skin, however, “do not apply repellent directly to a child’s face,” explains Dr. Hes, “Rub it on your hands and then apply to the face, avoiding the eyes, nose, and mouth.”

Can toddlers use bug spray?

Yes, children over two months old can use bug spray, however, the application method is key. Dr. Casares says, “For kids over 2 months old, only use enough repellent to cover exposed areas of skin and clothing.” 

Why Trust Verywell Family?

Ashley Ziegler is a full-time parenting writer and mom to a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old and she has personal experience in researching and purchasing children’s products. Key considerations she used when selecting these recommendations include expert advice, ingredients, and user reviews. 

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2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Is deet bad for you (And your kids)? Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic.

  2. Picaridin general fact sheet.