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How can I protect myself from mosquito bites?

Mosquitoes are most active from May through September and from dusk to dawn. To protect yourself from mosquito bites, the following personal precautions should be taken:

  • Limit your time outdoors when mosquitoes are most active (from May to September, from dusk to dawn).
  • If you must be outside when mosquitoes are active, wear protective clothing such as long pants, long sleeves, shoes and socks.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark, more intense colours.
  • Use an insect repellent on exposed skin when outside in places and at times when mosquitoes are most active.

Note: Vitamin B, ultrasonic devices, incense, citronella plants and bug zappers have NOT been shown to be effective in preventing mosquito bites.

How do I choose an insect repellent?

Choose a product that meets your needs. For example, if you plan to be outdoors for a short period of time, choose a product with a lower concentration of repellent and repeat application only if you need a longer protection time. Ensure that the product is registered under the Pest Control Products Act and is labelled as an insect repellent for use on humans. Never use a product labelled as an insecticide on your body.

Can I use both sunscreen and a personal insect repellent?

Sunscreen and personal insect repellents can be used safely at the same time. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the package for proper application of each product. Apply the sunscreen first, and follow with the insect repellent. Some personal insect repellent products used to contain sunscreen compounds. These products were phased out as of December 2003. If you still have sunscreen/DEET products, dispose of them in your household garbage.

For further general information on choosing an insect repellent product and updated information on using insect repellents containing DEET, please refer to the Health Canada website.

General Information for ALL Personal Insect Repellents:

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s label directions on the proper use of the insect repellent.
  • Apply the repellent sparingly, and only on exposed skin surfaces or on top of clothing. Do not use under clothing. Heavy application and saturation is unnecessary for effectiveness.
  • Do not use repellent on open wounds, irritated or sunburned skin.
  • Avoid breathing spray mists and apply only in well-ventilated areas. Do not apply near food.
  • Wash treated skin with soap and water when you return indoors or when protection is no longer needed.
  • Keep all insect repellent containers out of children’s reach.
  • Do not allow young children to apply repellent themselves.
  • Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands to reduce the chance of them getting the repellent in their eyes and mouths.
  • If you suspect that you (or your child) are reacting to an insect repellent - discontinue use of the product, wash the treated skin, and seek medical attention immediately. Remember to take the product container with you.

Are insect repellents containing DEET safe to use?

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) re-evaluated DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) in 2002 and they have now established more stringent guidelines for DEET use by children and adults. While repellents with higher concentrations of DEET are known to provide protection from mosquitoes for longer periods of time, caution must always be exercised when using DEET-based products on children.

Health Canada currently approves the following DEET concentrations for different age groups.

Children under 6 months of age

  • DO NOT use personal insect repellents containing DEET on infants. Non-chemical alternatives should be considered instead (e.g. protective clothing, avoidance of mosquito habitats and times of peak mosquito activity, use of mosquito netting for children’s playpens and strollers when outdoors).

Children aged 6 months to 2 years

  • In situations where a high risk for insect bites exists, the use of one application per day of DEET may be considered for this age group. One application should be effective against mosquitoes for 3 hours.
  • The least concentrated product should be used (10% DEET or less).
  • The product should be applied sparingly and should not be applied to the face and hands.
  • Prolonged use should be avoided.

Children between 2-12 years of age

  • The least concentrated product should be used (10% DEET or less).
  • Do not apply more than 3 times per day. One application of 10% DEET should be effective against mosquitoes for 3 hours.
  • Do not apply to face and hands
  • Prolonged use should be avoided.

Adults and Youth 12 Years of Age or Older

  • Products containing no more than 30% concentration of DEET will provide sufficient protection for adults and youths aged 12 or older. One application of 30% DEET should be effective against mosquitoes for 6 hours. After that, re-applications of repellent may be required.

More information can be obtained from

Durham Region Health Department, Environmental Help Line, 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613.

April 22, 2013