What Experts Say

Use on Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics:

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidance in 2003 on the use of DEET-based repellents, noting that children as young as two months of age can use repellents with up to a 30% concentration. This should help to reassure parents that their youngsters can use these products with confidence.

Experts’ Opinions about DEET

“DEET has been shown to be an extremely safe and effective repellent and remains a very important option for consumers.”

Lyle R. Petersen, M.D., M.P.H., director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(www.cdc.gov), Division of Vector-borne Infectious Diseases, April 28, 2005 media teleconference

“Repellents containing DEET are very safe when used according to directions.  No serious illness has been linked to use of DEET in children when used according to manufacturer’s recommendations.”

Insect Repellent Use & Safety

Insect repellents containing DEET are the most effective.  The concentration of DEET in products may range from less than 10 percent to over 30 percent.  The benefits of DEET reach a peak at a concentration of 30 percent, the maximum concentration currently recommended for infants and children.  DEET should not be used on children under 2 months of age.”

– American Academy of Pediatrics, “Summer Safety Tips,” April 30, 2006 (www.aap.org)

“DEET has a remarkable safety profile after 40 years of use and nearly 8 billion human applications. When applied with common sense, DEET-based repellents can be expected to provide a safe as well as long-lasting repellent effect.  Despite the substantial attention paid by the lay press every year to the safety of DEET, this repellent has been subjected to more scientific and toxicological scrutiny than any other repellent substance.”

– Mark S. Fradin, M.D., and Jonathan F. Day, Ph.D., New England Journal of Medicine, 2002

“Reports of adverse effects in humans associated with the dermal application of DEET are rare in the context of their widespread use by the general population.”

– Daniel L. Sudakin, M.D., M.P.H., and Wade R. Trevathan, Journal of Toxicology, 2003

“Part of our confidence in the safety of DEET is…on the extreme rarity of negative effects from its application.”

– Daniel Strickman Ph.D., Stephen P. Frances, Ph.D., and Mustapha Debboun, Ph.D., BCE, Prevention of Bug Bites, Stings and Disease, Oxford Press, 2009.

“DEET is far less toxic than many people believe. Adverse effects,though documented, are infrequent and are generally associated with gross overuse of the product. The risk of DEET-related adverse effects pales in comparison with the risk of acquiring vector-borne infection in places where such diseases are endemic. Alternative ‘natural’ products generally fail to live up to their reputations for greater safety and effectiveness and offer their users a false sense of security.  As Fradin and Day nicely demonstrate,we currently have access to effective insect repellents that are safe when used judiciously.”

– Richard J. Pollack, Ph.D., et al, Harvard School of Public Health, New England Journal of Medicine, 2002

“DEET has been used for 50 years with a tiny number of reported adverse events, many of which had a history of excessive or inappropriate use of repellent. …Its toxicology has been more closely scrutinized than any other repellent, but it has been deemed safe for human use, including use on children and pregnant women.”

– Mustapha Debboun, Ph.D., BCE; Stephen P. Frances, Ph.D., and Daniel Strickman Ph.D., Insect Repellents—Principles, Methods and Uses, CRC Press, 2007

“The preferred insect repellent is DEET because of its long history of safety and efficacy and wide range of concentrations and formulations. All other non–CDC-recommended insect repellants should be avoided because they may not adequately protect against aggressive, biting mosquitoes encountered around the world.”

Journal of Pharmacotherapy. 2010;30(10):1031-1043 Mirzaian, et al
Mosquito-borne Illnesses in Travelers: A Review of Risk and Prevention

“The surprising news:  among the four repellent chemicals Environmental Working Group found to be top picks is DEET, which is widely used but much maligned.  DEET’s safety profile is better than many people assume. Its effectiveness at preventing bites is approached by only a few other repellent ingredients. DEET isn’t a perfect choice nor the only choice.  But weighed against the consequences of Lyme disease and West Nile virus, we believe it is a reasonable one.”

Environmental Working Group  2013