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Protecting yourself from mosquito and tick bites

Context

In Québec, mosquito bites can transmit viruses to humans, such as the West Nile virus (WNV) and California serogroup (CSG) viruses. Mosquitoes that carry these viruses are found in the city or in the country, in wooded areas and forests. They can bite and transmit diseases at different times of the day.

You must take measures, in Québec and elsewhere, to protect yourself against mosquito bites when you go outdoors throughout the period when mosquitoes are active.

In other countries, mosquito bites can transmit WNV and CSG viruses, but also other viruses or parasites, such as:

If you are travelling outside Québec, find out if there are mosquitoes and when they are most active.

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 long, light-coloured clothing when you go outdoors, especially at times when mosquitoes are active.
  • Use mosquito repellent. Follow the 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
  • Cover strollers and playpens with mosquito netting when they are outdoors.
  • 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  

To find out more about measures to avoid tick bites and reduce the presence of ticks in your surroundings, go to the Protection and prevention section on the Lyme Disease page.

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 children

  • 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, preferably about 15 minutes, 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.

The protection time against tick bites is generally shorter than that against mosquito bites.

Using mosquito repellent: children less than 6 months
Type of repellentDuration of protectionApplication advice

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

Do not use mosquito repellent.N/AProtect your baby by placing a mosquito net on their crib or stroller
Using mosquito repellent: children 6 months to 2 years
Type of repellentDuration of protectionApplication advice

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

Products with a DEET concentration of 10% or less indicated on label3 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 products5 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
Using mosquito repellent: children 2 to 12 years
Type of repellentDuration of protectionApplication advice

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

Products with a DEET concentration of 10% or less indicated on label3 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 products5 hours or less
  • Do not use on children 3 years old and younger
  • 2 applications per day, maximum
  • Do not apply near eyes, mouth and hands
Blend of lemon, eucalyptus, pine needles, geranium and camphor essential oilsUndetermined
  • Follow applicable use instructions
  • Do not use on children 2 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
Using mosquito repellent: individuals 12 years old and up and adults
Type of repellentDuration of protectionApplication advice

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

Products with a DEET concentration of 30% or less indicated on label6 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 products5 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
Using mosquito repellent: pregnant or breastfeeding women
Type of repellentDuration of protectionApplication advice

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

Products with a DEET concentration of 30% or less indicated on label6 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

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 This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Last update: June 18, 2019

Notice

The information on this website by no means replaces the advice of a health professional. If you have questions regarding your health, contact Info-Santé 811 or see a health professional.