“The current American Academy of Pediatrics and Center for Disease Control recommendation for children older than 2 months of age is to use 10% to 30% DEET. DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age.” (2016 Summer Safety Tips, AAP).

Some animal studies showed increased risk of seizure and neurological damage so many people are concerned about using DEET. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) says: “After reviewing the evidence, EWG has concluded that DEET is generally safer than many people assume and remains a viable option for people in areas infested with disease-carrying pests.” Canada Health recommendations suggest using 5-10% DEET for children and no more than 30% for adults. For more information about EWG recommendations regarding percentages of DEET in products for children and adults:


Alternatives to DEET for the Prevention of Bug Bites

In the past 5 years, there have been compelling studies of essential oils showing that some have similar efficacy to DEET for repelling insects. One of the most significant concerns about using essential oils for bug repellants is that their efficacy is short-lived because the oils evaporate easily. This means that they must be reapplied every 30-60 minutes. Grapefruit and Geranium oils have specifically shown repellent activity against ticks.

Prevention and Treatment of Bug BitesChildren’s Bug Spray

  • 4 tbsp witch hazel
  • 2 tsp vegetable glycerin
  • 10 drops citronella essential oil (omit for pregnant women)
  • 5 drops rose geranium essential oil
  • 5 drops pink grapefruit essential oil

For children over age 2, double the drops of each essential oil.

  1. Shake to mix before each use.
  2. Spray on table, blankets and baby’s clothing but keep away from baby’s face and hands
  3. Reapply every 1-2 hours for maximal protection.


Play Area Bug Repellants

These are great plants to grow around your home and patio for their bug repellant effect.

  • Catnip – also great to add to baby’s bath for calming effect or rub leaves on body for bug repellant effect.
  • Citronella – better to use the plant than candles which often contain petroleum products.
  • Lavender – also good for making sachets to store with bed sheets to support calm and sleep.
  • Basil – great for making pesto which is a great way to eat fresh garlic which has potent antimicrobial properties and eating it may also help to repel bugs (no studies but may be a nice side effect.)
  • Lemon Balm  – makes a nice calming tea for adults and also good for adding to the bath for children.
  • Marigold – calendula officinalis is not toxic to cats and is also good for making salves and oils that are soothing for rashes and scrapes.

Also consider using a fan near the baby to keep bugs away. Bug netting and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing also help to prevent bug bites.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) may be helpful for reducing tick and flea populations in areas where children play. Make sure you get food grade DE, the other grades have higher levels of silica that may be harmful if inhaled. There is some controversy over how effective this is but it is generally considered safe if you use a food-grade type.

Chickens effectively turn ticks and weeds into healthy eggs that are high in Omega 3’s. A chicken tractor is an easy way to keep chickens contained and move them around the yard.


Natural Treatment for Mosquito Bites

  • Chamomile tea bag – apply wet tea bag to bite for 10-30 seconds or add 3 tea bags to child’s bath.
  • Aloe – (100% gel or directly from plant) soothing and anti-inflammatory.
  • Cucumber – apply slice of cucumber
  • Fresh whole herbs – basil or mint- crush leaves and place on the bite(s). You can crush leaves by chewing them, using a mortar and pestle, or simply rubbing them in your hands.

Do you have a tried and true natural method to keep bugs at bay? Or ways to treat bug bites that don’t include toxic chemicals? Please share!