The widely used bug repellent, DEET, has a downside. It may be hazardous to some children. There’s no reason to panic, but this summer, you might try one of the growing number of non-DEET alternatives.
DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide), was developed in the 1950s, and is the world’s most effective insect repellent. It’s also reasonably safe. Adverse reactions are rare – but not unheard of, especially among children. DEET passes through the skin and into the bloodstream. Since 1961, a handful of medical journal reports have blamed the chemical for confusion, convulsions, brain damage, and even three deaths in children who were doused with DEET. Several state health departments and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended using DEET cautiously.
What’s a parent to do? Dress children in light-weight, long-limbed clothing, and spray DEET on the fabric instead of kids’ skin. That way, little if any DEET enters the bloodstream.

Read labels carefully. In a 1993 investigation, Consumer Reports urged parents not to use bug repellents on children containing more than 20 percent DEET. Unfortunately, most DEET products contain more. The American Academy of Pediatrics goes further, saying that 10 percent DEET should be the upper limit for children’s products. Acceptable brands include Skeedaddle! (10 percent) or Off! Skintastic (8 percent).

Doubts about DEET have spurred interest in alternative insect repellents:
Dab on Pure Vanilla
Dab on Tea Tree Oil
Bounce Fabric Softener Sheets –Just wipe on and go
Avon Skin-so-Soft
Citronella Oil