How to protect yourself from mosquitoes
Around the world, mosquito and tick bites are responsible for many different diseases, such as malaria.
Here in Canada, the West Nile Virus and Lyme disease are the two insect-borne diseases that are cause for concern. According to Health Canada, however, Canadians run little risk of contracting either of these illnesses.
But in the spirit of “better safe than sorry,” it’s probably wise to protect yourself from insect bites, whether you’re travelling to a high-risk area or staying right here at home. You can do this by adopting a few easy habits and using a good insect repellent.
Good to know
Mosquitoes can bite any time of day, but they are more active at dawn and dusk. Ticks can often be found along paths, especially in wooded areas or tall grass. In Quebec, their presence has been observed in the Montérégie area.
Tips on protecting yourself from mosquitoes and ticks
• Limit your time outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
• Remove any standing pools of water from your property, since this is where mosquitoes breed. Get rid of the water from your pool cover, flower pot saucers and wading pool. Empty and clean bird baths twice a week and clean out your rainwater gutters regularly to prevent clogs that can lead to water buildup.
• Cover up. Wear long sleeves, pants and closed shoes when mosquitoes are out or when you are in an area where ticks are found.
• Wear light-coloured clothes. They are less likely to attract mosquitoes and will let you better see any attached ticks.
• Check your screens for holes or tears and make sure your doors fit tightly. If not, make the necessary repairs and adjustments.
• If you come back from an area where ticks may be found, check your clothes and your entire body.
How to choose an insect repellent
Insect repellent is another effective way to prevent insect bites. Look for a Health Canada-approved product. It will have a Pest Control Product registration number on the label. This number means that the product does not pose a health risk – as long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
The most commonly known insect repellents are those containing DEET. The higher the DEET concentration, the longer its protection will last, but certain guidelines need to be followed:
• For adults and children over 12, a DEET concentration of up to 30 percent is recommended.
• For children between 2 and 12, you can use a concentration of up to 10 percent, with no more than 3 applications per day.
• For children 6 months to 2 years of age, you can also use a concentration of up to 10 percent, but only once a day.
• Products containing DEET should not be used on babies under the age of 6 months. To protect babies from insects, install a mosquito net on their playpen or stroller.
Icaridin is another insect repellent. While it is not as well known, it too is very effective. At a 20-percent concentration, it offers protection equal to a 30-percent DEET formula and can be used on babies as early as 6 months of age. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends it as the first-line insect repellent for children.
At times, you need protection against mosquitoes AND the sun. If that’s the case, the Canadian Dermatology Association recommends applying your sunscreen first. Then, wait 20 minutes for the product to penetrate the skin and follow with the insect repellent.
Protect yourself when you travel!
When travelling to a country where mosquito bites can spread diseases, you may need to implement other measures in addition to the ones mentioned above (e.g., sleeping under a mosquito net or taking preventive drugs). Get informed before you leave!
Do you have questions about insect repellents? Will you be travelling to a country at risk for mosquito-borne diseases? Speak with your family pharmacist for expert advice!
Your family pharmacists can also prescribe* travel medications when no diagnosis is needed. This includes drugs to prevent malaria and acute mountain sickness or to treat traveller’s diarrhea.
A consultation will be required so the pharmacist can make sure you meet the prescribing criteria. To avail yourself of this service, you may need to book an appointment with your family pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here.