Protection against insect bites using five questions

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Why is it so important to protect against mosquitoes and ticks?

Effective protection against mosquitoes (and ticks) can definitely make an outdoor holiday more pleasant. Insect stings can cause unpleasant symptoms such as redness, puffiness, and itching. However, this isn’t the main reason that should encourage you to use insect repellent. In fact, these insects can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans when they sting them.

Insect stings can be at the root of several types of infection. However, in Quebec, the main concern is the West Nile virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, and Lyme disease, which is spread through tick bites. Although infrequent, both of these diseases may heal on their own, but there are sometimes long-term complications. When travelling abroad, paludism (also called malaria) also requires protection.

The best way to protect against the West Nile virus and Lyme disease is to apply insect repellent before doing outdoor activities that put you at risk.


What insect repellent should I choose for my family?

Several insect repellents are available on the market. However, it cannot be said that they are all equal. Therefore, it is necessary to choose the right product according to your needs, age, and the duration of the outdoor activity.

Insect repellent use

DEET and icaridin are choice options except for babies under 6 months. They have the advantage of protecting against mosquitoes AND ticks. Duration of protection varies according to the concentration of DEET chosen. A concentration of 30% provides up to 6 hours of protection; a concentration of 10% provides up to 3 hours of protection.

Icaridin provides 3 to 5 hours of protection when a concentration of 10% is used, and 8 to 12 hours for a concentration of 20%. It is an interesting and safe option for children 6 months and older. Soybean oil and p-menthane-3.8 diol, provide 3 hours and 2 hours of mosquito protection respectively.


How should I apply insect repellent?

Several precautions should be taken when using insect repellent, especially for children, to reduce product absorption by the skin:

  • Apply insect repellent on exposed skin and on clothing (not under clothing).
  • Spray aerosol insect repellent in the hands before applying it to the child’s skin.
  • Choose a lower percentage of DEET if you are going outdoors for a short period of time.
  • Wash skin with soap and water as soon as protection against mosquitoes is no long required.
  • Do a tolerance test when using insect repellent for the first time on a child: apply the product on the forearm and wait 24 hours to see if an undesirable reaction occurs. If this is the case, do not use insect repellent.

It is recommended that pregnant women apply insect repellent on their clothing instead of on their skin if possible, to limit product absorption by the skin.


What other preventive measures can I take against mosquito bites?

Insect repellent is only one aspect of protection against mosquito bites. Some habits help to keep these pesky critters at a further distance.

First, mosquitoes are much more active at dawn and dusk, particularly near wooded areas or tall grass. Therefore, avoiding to go outdoors at this time of day could be a good solution. Dressing appropriately is also important: wear full length, light-coloured clothing, closed shoes, and tuck your sweater into your pants and pull your socks up over your pant legs.

Ensuring that screen doors are functional and that doors are closed properly will prevent these unwanted visitors from coming into your home. Lastly, it’s a good idea to watch for any objects containing stagnant water including pool covers, a child’s wading pool or a water-filled saucer under a flower pot and to clean them regularly.


Can I apply insect repellent at the same time as sunscreen?

Sun protection is just as important as protecting against insect stings. It is possible to apply sunscreen and insect repellent, but it must be done the right way. Sunscreen should be applied at least 20 minutes before insect repellent. It is preferable to avoid using products containing both sunscreen and insect repellent.

Using the tips mentioned in this text will help your family avoid insect stings. Your pharmacist can help you to make the right choice among the range of insect repellents offered on the market. With the right protection, all that’s left for you to do is enjoy the summer fun!


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Protection against insect bites using five questions

In summer, there aren’t just pretty butterflies to contemplate, there are also mosquitoes and the insect stings they leave behind! Find out how to protect against mosquito stings.
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