Protect yourself: fight the bite!

With summer approaching, it is time to start thinking about getting outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and all nature has to offer. Hand in hand comes the responsibility of protecting yourself and your family from the less desirable elements spring and summer bring.

We are all used to applying sunscreen regularly to protect our skin from the potentially damaging effects of sun exposure, but what else can we do to ensure the warm days and nights ahead are worry-free?

First, start spraying on the insect repellent. The ever-pesky mosquito can now cause more than the general annoyance of itchy red bumps.

Mosquitoes can transmit the West Nile virus. While there is a minimal chance of being infected and even less chance of becoming ill once infected, it is still wise to take precautions.

"Everyone who is active and outside during the summer is at risk of being bitten by mosquitoes and should take precautions," says Dr. Colin D'Cunha Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health.

The province of Ontario and many municipalities have plans to reduce the number of mosquitoes and help protect us from West Nile virus, but the most effective methods of protection are things you can do yourself.

The Ontario Ministry of Health offers the following tips to help you fight the bite:

  • Avoid mosquito bites by applying insect repellent containing DEET to exposed skin when you go outside. Follow product application directions carefully.
  • Spray clothing with repellents containing DEET to deter mosquitoes from biting through them. Do not apply repellents to skin under clothing.
  • Mosquitoes are attracted to dark, vibrant colours, so wear light-coloured protective clothing, such as long-sleeve shirts, pants and socks to leave less skin exposed.
  • Do not wear strong fragrances or perfumed creams that can attract mosquitoes.
  • Stay indoors from dusk to dawn and avoid gardening in the early morning or evening when mosquitoes are most active.

Before you leave the house this summer to go outdoors and enjoy the weather, take insect repellent and keep your skin protected both day and night along with your hat and sunscreen.

Tips for Using Personal Insect Repellents

Staying free from mosquito bites is especially important to reduce your risk of contracting West Nile virus. Consider using a personal insect repellent. If you do, use only products that are federally regulated such as those that contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide). Always check the label for more detailed information, or ask your pharmacist for help. Follow directions for use carefully.

The concentration of DEET should be a maximum 30 per cent for adults. Products with lower concentrations of DEET are just as effective, but last for a shorter period of time.

For children between two and 12 years of age, use products with a maximum of 10 per cent DEET, and apply no more than three times per day. Avoid prolonged use and applying repellent to children's hands to reduce the chance of getting it in their eyes and mouths.

For children six months to two years of age, consider one application per day in situations where a high risk of complications from insect bites exist. Use a product with 10 per cent DEET or less and apply sparingly, but not on the face and hands.

Insect repellents with DEET should not be used on children under six months of age. The more DEET a repellent contains, the longer the protection lasts. For example, a product containing 10 per cent DEET provides about three hours of protection, while one containing 30 per cent DEET provides approximately six and a half hours of protection.

Apply repellents sparingly on exposed skin surfaces or on top of clothing. Do not use under clothing. Repellent does not need to be applied heavily, a light coating will be effective. Small steps can make a big difference. And in the case of personal insect repellents, they can keep us healthy.