Healthy Hints from Pharmasave: How to Protect Yourself Against West Nile Virus

Are you heading to the cottage this summer or planning on camping? Worried about being exposed to the West Nile virus? The risk of becoming infected with the West Nile virus is greatest during mosquito season. In Canada, this can start as early as mid-April and last until late September or October. Here are suggestions to help you avoid mosquitoes:

  • Apply a bug repellent that contains no more than 30% DEET (chemical name N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) to your clothes:
    • Adults can also apply 30% (or less) DEET-containing repellent to any exposed skin, but children should use the least concentrated DEET products (less than 10%).
    • Children should not have DEET-containing repellent on their face or hands.
    • Children under 2 years of age should usually not have DEET applied to clothes or skin. In situations where there is a high risk of complications from insect bites, repellent containing 10% or less DEET may be applied once daily for children aged 6 months to 2 years. Infants under 6 months of age should not have DEET applied to their skin or clothes.
    • Children between the ages of 2 and 12 years can use insect repellent containing less than 10% of DEET – it can be applied up to 3 times per day.
    • Products with a lower concentration of DEET are just as effective as higher-concentration products, but they remain effective for a shorter period of time.
    • Apply DEET sparing to exposed skin or on top of clothing (not under clothing).
    • Do not apply DEET to open wounds or to skin that is irritated or sunburned.
    • Avoid getting DEET in the eyes (for this reason, it is recommended not to put DEET on children’s hands) – flush the eyes immediately with water if this happens.
    • There are no data to suggest that DEET is harmful for pregnant or breast-feeding women. However, these women may want to use non-chemical methods (such as protective clothing and avoiding times and places where mosquitoes are likely to be present).
  • Wear light-coloured clothes, including long-sleeved shirts and pants. Mosquitoes tend to be attracted to dark-coloured clothes.
  • Minimize your time outside from dusk to dawn, which are peak periods when mosquitoes are most active. Enjoy the summer weather inside a screened-in patio or enclosure during these hours.
  • Make sure there is no stagnant water (including bird baths) or standing water on your lawn. As part of your spring and summer lawn cleanup, regularly (twice a week) drain rain barrels, bird baths, swimming pool covers, eavestroughs, flowerpots, and planters. Keep wheelbarrows and wading pools overturned when not in use. The most common places for mosquitos to nest are bird baths, old tires, unused containers, flower-pot saucers, swimming pool covers, wading pools, clogged gutters and eavestroughs, clogged drainage ditches, and unused children’s toys.
  • Around your yard and lawn: Throw away lawn cuttings, raked leaves, and fruit or berries that fall from trees immediately. Place them in sealed garbage bags. Turn over compost piles regularly, and remove dense shrubbery, where mosquitoes are liable to breed and rest.
  • Purchase an aerator or ornamental pond that keeps the surface water moving. This environment will be less attractive for mosquito larvae.
  • Check all your window and door screens for holes.
  • Doing some barbecuing this summer? There are products available at some camping stores that repel mosquitoes by emitting sounds that imitate the sounds of the mosquito’s natural enemies.
  • Environmentally friendly ways to reduce mosquitoes include installing bat- and birdhouses and encouraging species such as dragonflies, frogs, and beetles.
  • Natural oil-based repellents using plant-based ingredients are available. Oil of lemon eucalyptus has been found to be as effective as DEET when used at similar strengths. Other plant-based repellents, such as citronella or soybean oil, may be used. Keep in mind that they are not as effective as chemical-based repellents, that products containing essential oils need to be tested for skin sensitivity, and that they need to be applied frequently. In general, they are more appropriate if you are spending less than 30 minutes outside. Not all products may be safe for young children. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

For more information on mosquito-proofing your home, visit Health Canada at

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