There is nothing more irritating for you and your little ones than itchy insect bites. So here is our pick of the best insect repellents for the warmer months or if you're heading abroad. Whether you're looking for a spray or deterrent for your children or the whole family, there is a range of products that will help keep the pesky mosquitos and midges at bay.
Is DEET safe for kids?
DEET may be the most effective form of insect repellent; however, it is not advised to use on children under twelve. In addition, please do not allow children under 12 years of age to apply repellent themselves. Most cases of severe side effects caused by DEET involve frequent long-term application on the entire body. However, for some individuals, DEET can lead to some more serious side effects. According to Dr Axe, it is possible in some serious cases that DEET can cause skin reactions, seizures, fatigue, respiratory conditions and possibly even cancer.
What scent keeps mosquitoes away?
Many natural scents that are appealing to humans work as a repellent for mosquitos and other insects. You can find ingredients such as lavender, peppermint, basil, Citronella and eucalyptus in products such as candles, plug-in devices or natural sprays. In addition, you can apply any of these scents as an essential oil on your skin as a natural deterrent.
Best DEET-free insect repellent spray
Suitable for: 6 months +
This bug spray is perfect for little ones as it does not contain any DEET or Picaridin. The spray shields you from mosquitoes, midges, sandflies, horseflies, ticks and other bothersome bugs. It also lasts for five hours and is approved by the Vegan Society.
If you use this spray to protect a very young baby, the brand recommends spraying the formula mainly on clothes and lightly on their skin.
Review: “Absolutely fantastic. Total natural, safe protection and great for children with sensitive skin as well as adults. We've had no bites when wearing this in mosquito-laden areas. Works in tropical/malaria zones as well as places with, well, lots of bugs and insects - a fantastic alternative to DEET.”
Best insect repellent roll-on
Suitable for: 3 months +
Made with the same formula as the best selling incognito spray, this roll-on insect repellent will shield you from bugs for up to five hours. The formula is DEET-free making it the perfect family-friendly repellent.
Review: "Ideal for the little ones in the family, non greasy and works!"
Best insect repellent patches for all ages
Suitable for: All ages
Patches are also a great way to deter bugs. These mosquito patches also repel other insects such as midges and are suitable for all ages. You do not need to apply the patch directly to the skin. Instead, you squeeze the patches to activate the deterring essential oils. Once the patch is active, you can attach it to clothes, car seats, prams and cots. This natural and simple formula contains citronella and lemon eucalyptus oils and will last up to 10 hours.
Review: “I always use these around my son's bed at night in mosquito areas, and he never gets bitten at all. Used when he was 18 months old and now again at three and a half years old. Recommended product!"
Best insect repellent plug-in device
Suitable for: All ages
This handy plug-in device is powered by the mains and will shield you from mosquitos and other little bugs all night. The plug-in releases a non-harmful spray for up to 20 days that wards off unwanted creepy-crawlies. This will be a suitable choice if you like to sleep with the window open at home or abroad. The device gets filled with replaceable tablets that cost around £6 for a pack of 30.
Review: “I used this recently during the heatwave in London, and all I can say is that I didn't have any annoying mosquitos keeping me awake... the humidity did a good enough job with that:) It's very similar to another one of these I've had in the past and so far so good. No overheating problems... it all works as it should.”
Best insect repellent candle
Suitable for: All ages
If you are looking for a bug deterrent that you do not apply to your skin, then this candle infused with citronella oil, green citrus with undertones of fresh, clean fragrance. Additionally, the fragrance is safe for humans, pets and the environment; it’s biodegradable and eco-friendly. Also, it comes in a beautifully packed bowl so that it will be great in any room or patio.
Review: “This La Jolie Muse Citronella Candle is really good value for money and presentable. The candle comes attractively boxed and is in an attractive tin complete with a lid. Being a soy candle, it burns quite cleanly. Still, the citronella scent is unmistakable and highly effective at warding off flying insects which are proving a real nuisance during this unusually hot spell. We love this candle and think it's very good value for money.”
Best insect repellent bracelet for adults and children
Suitable for: 6 months +
Another alternative to sprays are insect repellent bracelets. This bracelet from THEYE lasts for two weeks before needing to use a new one – ideal for family holidays. This natural formula contains oil of lemon eucalyptus and a range of colours and sizes. It is suitable for children and comes in extra small so it will fit your little one’s wrist.
Review: “This was great. My cousin and I went up north in midgey season, and we got bit the first day, which we stupidly hadn’t even opened these. after that with these on. No more bites.”
Best insect repellent lotion for children
Suitable for: 12 months+
The Hospital of Tropical Diseases recommends this maximum strength formula from The Jungle Formula range and now has a line for children that does not contain any DEET. It is suitable for children over one year old and will protect your children for six hours and ward off mosquitos, midges, horseflies and ticks. One thing to note is that the formula will not be strong enough if you are going to countries with insect-borne diseases such as Malaria. In that case, you will need to apply something with more strength.
Review: “Worked really well for my 1-year old daughter. She hardly got bitten. We stayed a month in Bangladesh. There was a lot of mosquitos more than usual, but this worked great.”
Best insect repellent bracelet for children
Suitable for: 3+
This effective plant-based mosquito repellent made with Citriodiol will shield your child for 15 days after opening. So they will be protected for all bloodsucking pesky mosquitoes and bugs.
Best insect repellent for senstive skin
Suitable for: 3 months+
If your baby or toddler have sensitive skin then this natural DEET-free formula is made with sensitive skin in mind, so could be a good choice if your child has eczema. It is also specifically designed to stop babies from getting bitten, using p-menthane-3,8-diol (synthesised from lemon eucalyptus). This spray claims to protect for up to six hours.
Review: “I was worried about purchasing this as my son has really bad eczema, and I was worried it either wouldn't be strong enough to deter the mosquitos or would flare up his eczema, but honestly, I was so so pleased and glad I got this! So gentle on my son's skin (he has extreme eczema too) didn't flare him up at all, and he didn't get bit all holiday, unlike us, so we started using this instead and never got a bit too. Really recommend!”
Best DEET insect repellent spray
Suitable for: 12+
If you are looking to guarantee yourself as much protection as possible against pesky mosquitoes and insects, DEET provides you with the best protection. Each pump of the spray will last six hours before re-applying need to re-apply. This spray is for use on children over 12 years of age.
Review: "Absolutely Amazing product! I Work with animals, so all sort of flies and they won't come near me when wearing this and normally I get eaten alive especially by horse flies. Very pleased."