Protecting Yourself from Mosquito and Tick Bites

Context

Mosquito bites can spread microbes that cause various diseases in humans. In Québec, the West Nile Virus (WNV) is of particular concern. In other countries, mosquitoes can, for example, spread:

  • The Zika virus
  • The chikungunya virus
  • The yellow fever virus
  • The parasite that causes malaria

Measures to Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites

The best way to protect yourself from diseases spread by mosquito bites is to avoid being bitten. Take the following measures to reduce the risk of being bitten:

  • Wear light-coloured clothing, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when going outdoors, especially during periods of time when mosquitoes are most active. In Québec, mosquitoes that spread the WNV are more active at night, especially at dusk and dawn. If you are travelling outside Québec, find out if there are mosquitoes and when they are the most active.
  • Use a mosquito repellent when outside. Do so by following instructions for using mosquito repellent
  • Install proper mosquito nets on the doors and windows of your house, as well as on your tent and camping shelter
  • Actively seek to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your surroundings. To learn more, read Reducing the Number of Mosquitoes in your Surroundings

Measures to Protect Yourself from Tick Bites

Tick bites can transmit various diseases to humans, Lyme disease in particular. The best way to protect yourself is by avoiding being bitten.

To avoid tick bites when doing activities in forests, wooded areas or tall grass:

  • Wear long clothing and cover yourself as best as possible
  • Use a DEET or icaridin-based mosquito repellent. Do so by following instructions for using mosquito repellent
  • Walk along trails
  • Maintain vegetation around your house, especially near children’s play areas  

Instructions for Using Mosquito Repellent

Instructions

  • Follow instructions on the product label and respect the application periods indicated
  • Apply product in small quantities and only on areas of the body not protected by clothing
  • Do not apply product on skin that is irritated or sunburnt, as well as on cuts and scratches
  • Should the mosquito repellent go in your eyes, rinse immediately with water
  • When you no longer need protection, wash your skin with soap and water
  • Apply mosquito repellent again after going in water as it removes product from the skin

Instructions for Using Repellents on Kids

  • Limit the number of mosquito repellent applications on children 12 years old and younger. Do not apply product near their eyes, mouth or hands. To prevent mosquito bites on their head or face, apply mosquito repellent on their hat or cap
  • Do not allow children to apply mosquito repellent to themselves, always do it for them
  • If you suspect that your child has an allergic reaction to a mosquito repellent, wash their skin and consult a doctor immediately. Show the doctor the product you have used

Mosquito Repellent and Sunscreen

If you need to protect yourself from mosquitoes and the sun at the same time:

  • Apply the sunscreen first and let it penetrate your skin before applying mosquito repellent. This limits the amount of mosquito repellent absorbed
  • Do not use products that claim to combine sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Sunscreen must be applied more generously and more often than mosquito repellent

Choose the Right Mosquito Repellent

For greater efficiency, use a repellent recommended by age group.

There are many types of mosquito repellents with varying active ingredients. The active ingredients are what chases away mosquitoes and ticks.

To protect yourself from mosquito bites, it is recommended you use a DEET, icaridin, lemon eucalyptus, or soybean oil-based mosquito repellent. To protect yourself from tick bites, use DEET or icaridin-based products.

Do not use citronella-based mosquito repellents on infants and young children because these products generally offer less than 1 hour of protection. Other essential oil products last less than 2 hours and are not the best option for protection against mosquito bites. However, if approved, such products are an alternative for short periods of exposure for people older than 3 provided that instructions on the labels are followed. These products are not effective against ticks.

Use the table below to determine which repellent to use and how to use it safely.

Recognizing the Active Ingredients in Repellents

Scientific names of active ingredients on product labels may vary:

  • DEET is also known as ‘N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide’
  • Icaridine is also known as ‘picaridine’ or ‘KBR 3023’

Lemon eucalyptus is also known ‘lemon eucalyptus oil’ or ‘p-menthane 3.8-diol’ (PMD). Lemon eucalyptus should not be confused with products that contain eucalyptus oil and lemon oil.

Using Mosquito repellent: Children 12 Years Old and Younger

Group Type of repellent Duration of protection Application advice

Less than 6 months

Do not use mosquito repellent.
Protect your baby by placing a mosquito net on their crib or stroller

6 months to 2 years

Products with a DEET concentration of 10% or less indicated on label

3 hours or less

  • Apply only to parts of the body that are exposed
  • One application per day, maximum
  • Do not apply near eyes, mouth and hands
  • Avoid applying on skin that is damaged, irritated or burned by the sun, or on mucous membranes
  • Do not use mosquito repellent on a daily basis for more than a month
  • Do not use for long periods

Icaridin-based products labelled 20% or less

  • Products labelled 10%: 3-5 hours
  • Products labelled 20%: 8-10 hours
  • Do not apply near eyes, mouth and hands

Lemon eucalyptus-based products

5 hours or less

  • Do not use on children 3 years old and younger
Soybean oil-based products (labelled 2%) 3 hours and 30 minutes or less
  • No restrictions on frequency of use
  • Not suitable for protecting yourself from ticks

2 to 12 years

Products with a DEET concentration of 10% or less indicated on label

3 hours or less

  • Apply only to parts of the body that are exposed
  • 3 applications per day, maximum
  • Do not apply near eyes, mouth and hands
  • Do not use mosquito repellent on a daily basis for more than a month

Icaridin-based products labelled 20% or less

  • Products labelled 10%: 3-5 hours
  • Products labelled 20%: 8-10 hours
  • Do not apply near eyes, mouth and hands

Lemon eucalyptus-based products

5 hours or less

  • Avoid application on children 3 years old and younger
  • 2 applications per day, maximum
  • Do not apply near eyes, mouth and hands
Soybean oil-based products (labelled 2%) 3 hours and 30 minutes or less
  • No restrictions on frequency of use
  • Not suitable for protecting yourself from ticks

Source: Institut national de santé publique du Québec, information drawn from Health Canada website

Using Mosquito repellent: Individuals 12 Years Old and Up

Group Type of repellent Duration of protection Application advice

Individuals 12 years old and up

Adults 

Products with a DEET concentration of 30% or less indicated on label

6 hours or less

  • Do not apply near eyes and mouth
  • Apply only to parts of the body that are exposed

Icaridin-based products labelled 20% or less

  • Products labelled 10%: 3-5 hours
  • Products labelled 20%: 8-10 hours
  • Do not apply near eyes and mouth

Lemon eucalyptus-based products

5 hours or less

  • 2 applications per day, maximum
  • Do not apply near eyes and mouth
  • Not suitable for protecting yourself from ticks
Soybean oil-based products (labelled 2%) 3 hours and 30 minutes or less
  • No restrictions on frequency of use
  • Not suitable for protecting yourself from ticks

Pregnant or breastfeeding women  

Products with a DEET concentration of 30% or less indicated on label

6 hours or less

  • 2 applications per day, maximum
  • Do not apply near eyes and mouth

Icaridin-based products labelled 20% or less

  • Products labelled 10%: 3-5 hours
  • Products labelled 20%: 8-10 hours
  • 2 applications per day, maximum
  • Do not apply near eyes and mouth
Soybean oil-based products (labelled 2%) 3 hours and 30 minutes or less
  • No restrictions on frequency of use
  • Not suitable for protecting yourself from ticks

Source: Institut national de santé publique du Québec, information drawn from Health Canada website

Products That Are Not Recommended

Some products are not very effective against mosquito or tick bites or do not have a long-lasting effect. They are not recommended. The list of products that are not recommended is available on Health Canada website.

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Last update: February 23, 2018 11:01 AM

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