It's Your Health
Help on accessing alternative formats, such as Portable Document Format (PDF), Microsoft Word and PowerPoint (PPT) files, can be obtained in the alternate format help section.
Insect repellents can help you reduce mosquito and tick bites, which can cause a range of health problems, from itchiness and irritation to potentially serious diseases.
Around the globe, mosquito and tick bites can lead to a range of diseases, including malaria. In Canada, West Nile virus and Lyme disease are the primary health concerns. For most Canadians, the risk of contracting these illnesses is very low and the risk of serious health effects is also low.
Your best protection from illness is to take preventative measures. For example, use an insect repellent that has been approved by Health Canada and cover exposed skin with clothing as much as possible. Approved Health Canada products have a Pest Control Product (PCP) registration number on the product label.
Besides using an insect repellent, you can reduce your risk by taking the following steps.
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 re-apply only if you need a longer protection time.
Use only personal insect repellents that have a Pest Control Product registration number and are labelled as insect repellents for use on humans. Never use a product labelled as an insecticide on your body.
Registered products containing Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) are acceptable for use when applied as directed. Health Canada completed its latest review of DEET products in 2002, which was also supported by the Canadian Paediatric Society.
The higher the DEET concentration in the repellent formula, the longer it provides protection. While this is true for protection against both mosquitos and ticks, DEET repels mosquitos for a longer time than ticks. To get protection from ticks look for a product that specifies use for ticks. Health Canada has approved the following concentrations for different age groups. Prolonged use should be avoided in children under the age of 12.
Products with the active ingredient P-menthane 3.8-diol are registered in Canada. They provide up to two hours of protection against mosquitos and up to five hours of protection against black flies, but should not be used on children under three years of age. These products can be applied up to two times a day.
Soybean oil, a 2% blocker repellent, is another personal insect repellent that provides protection for three and a half hours against mosquitos and for up to eight hours against black flies. There are no age restrictions or limitations on frequency of use with these products.
In 2004, Health Canada completed a review of the available information on citronella-based personal insect repellents that are applied directly to the skin. There was a lack of safety data to support continued registration. However, since Health Canada did not identify any imminent health risks, citronella-based personal insect repellents will remain on the market until a final decision is made.
Registered products containing citronella protect people against mosquito bites for 30 minutes up to two hours. These products should not be used on infants or toddlers.
Certain products containing citronella have a limit on the number of applications allowed per day. Read the product label before using.
Products combining skin moisturizer and insect repellent are not approved for use by Health Canada. Use separate products simultaneously when needed.
Sunscreen and personal insect repellents can be used safely at the same time. To properly apply the product, follow the instructions on the package. Apply the sunscreen first and then the insect repellent.
The following products are not recommended for a variety of reasons. They may not be very effective or long-lasting and they may have the potential to be harmful to human health.
Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency is the federal body responsible for the regulation of pesticides in Canada. The Agency's main objective is to prevent unacceptable risk to human health and the environment from the use of approved pesticides.
The Public Health Agency of Canada works with a number of partners to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus through education, research, prevention and response. Partners include the provincial and territorial Ministries of Health, other federal and provincial departments and agencies and the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre.
The Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel (CATMAT) provides the Public Health Agency of Canada with ongoing medical, scientific and public health advice, as well as recommendations for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and other health hazards that Canadian travellers may encounter outside Canada. For international travellers, additional guidelines are available on the CATMAT website below.
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-465-7735*
Updated: August 2012
Original: August 2008
ęHer Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2012
Catalogue # H13-7/45-2012E-PDF
ISBN # 978-1-100-18662-7