I never liked the idea of putting mainstream insect repellents on my daughter's skin as the scent smells so toxic to me. Having a child susceptible to skin conditions and allergies, I didn't want to risk putting them on her not knowing what was in them. But living in Australia I needed some alternative! So here is what I found out about what is really in these mainstream insect repellents such as 'Aerogard', 'Off', 'Bushman' and 'Rid'.
These bug sprays have been deemed safe by by the Environmental Protection Agency, although I personally do not rely on just that information before I make the decision to spray my child with a potentially toxic substance.
DEET One of the main chemicals found in these bug sprays is called 'DEET' (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide). It is extremely effective at keeping mosquitos and bugs away. Some studies have resulted in a concern that this chemical may affect our nervous system, such as it does when it stops the ability of an insects brain to send messages to its muscles (resulting in it not being able to bite us).
In some studies that I found, this chemical has caused redness and skin irritation in children, and in rare cases has resulted in seizures. Most of the research I found on this chemical resulted in it being only mildly toxic to human health, but that it may possibly increase the toxicity of other types of chemicals that humans may be exposed to (for example, people wearing DEET absorb more easily a chemical that is commonly used on peoples lawns). It is clear to me that more research needs to be done of the effects of this chemical on human health, and I would rather not risk using it.
The other compounds in insect repellents I have found not to be harmful.
Fortunately, there are many natural insect repellents on the market. I have indeed found some of these to be just as effective as mainstream bug sprays at keeping mosquitos away, and they DO NOT have the toxic smell!