You want to keep your kids safe from bugs and the illnesses they can transmit, yet you may worry that using repellents to keep insects away can also come with its own set of risks. To this end, it can help to know how the medical community weighs in.

The experts recommend that parents do use bug spray on their children, but most stress that safe insect repellent use means following some important guidelines on what to buy and how to apply.

Play it Safe

You may wonder if a safe insect repellent for kids even exists. While there are some dangers inherent in using any repellents, the experts say that the dangers of becoming infected with insect-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease can be even more serious. Therefore, the safest thing you can do to protect your child is to use insect repellent with proper guidance.

What to Use

When it comes to shopping for safe insect repellent, there are so many choices on the drug store shelves that you may feel overwhelmed. The latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Environmental Protection Agency say to buy a repellent that contains 30 percent DEET. This provides optimum protection from mosquitoes and ticks for an adequate length of time. Lower concentrations may not last long enough, while higher concentrations can pose too much risk for children.

Further, doctors recommend that you select a repellent that doesn't contain sunscreen. (Combination repellent and sun screen products aren't a good idea since sun protection needs to be applied more often than bug spray.)

Finally, keep in mind that you can find insect repellents available that are made from natural products. While some these are generally considered safe, they are lower strength and may not be as effective as 30 percent DEET.

How to Apply

Once you have safe insect repellent, you need to apply it with care. Here are some recommendations from the experts on getting it right:

  • Only use on children 2 months or older.
  • Read the label carefully and always follow the directions.
  • Spray outdoors, not inside.
  • Apply repellent on exposed skin and over (not under) clothing.
  • Use your hands to rub repellent on your face (don't spray).
  • Avoid the areas directly around the eyes and mouth. Also steer clear of any places and where your child has a cut, rash or other irritation.
  • Apply the repellent yourself (or have another adult do it), but never let your child do it him or herself.
  • Wash off the repellent off with soap and water when your child comes indoors and launder his or her clothes before wearing again.

Other Protective Steps

In addition to using safe insect repellent to keep away bugs that can make your child sick, there are also some easy changes you can make to protect your child. For instance, avoid using scented bath and hair products that can attract bugs, and don't select clothing with bright colors and flowery prints. Also steer your child away from areas near food, flowers and stagnant water. All of these things can be magnets for insects.

With a little planning, your child can spend time outdoors and still play it safe.