Mosquitoes are the bane of any Canadian (or American) summer! No matter where you live, there will be a time during the season when you are plagued with their high pitched whine and itchy bites.
The itch and annoyance are not even the most important reasons for avoiding bites. Of greater concern is the annual recurrence of West Nile virus. Carried by infected mosquitoes, the virus resembles the flu — headaches, body and joint pain, vomiting, rash — and in most cases, will pass through as such but in some 1% of cases, complications can occur, like encephalitis. These cases are rare, however. Most of us will only experience the persistent itch that comes with mosquito bites.
© patio image via Shutterstock
There are some easy ways to protect yourself from the bites!
Lessen your mosquito exposure
1. Can you avoid being out and about at dawn and dusk? These are the times of day when mosquitoes are most active and so therefore when your exposure is the greatest.
2. Do you have stagnant water on your property? Standing water is the breeding ground of choice for mosquitoes. Shady bog and swampy areas that never seem to dry are particularly prone. Other areas? Kids outdoor toys, bird baths, flower pots, rainwater barrels and wading pools. If you keep any of these things in your yard throughout the summer season, be sure to change out the water at least twice a week. Don’t create a habitat for these biting beasties!
3. During the heat of the day, shady areas are the mosquito’s best friends. Be sure to cover up if you’re heading out for a hike.
If you must travel among mosquitoes…
4. Wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt, socks and a hat. Light coloured clothing is best, not just because it’s hot in the summer, but dark clothes attract the mosquitoes even more!
5. Use an insect repellent that contains DEET – repellents containing 10% DEET for children 2 to 12. Children and adults over 12 can use products containing 30% DEET. This list of protection times will tell you how often you need to reapply repellent, depending on the concentration of DEET.
6. Try a mosquito net. Children playing in a playpen or riding in a stroller should have a fine mosquito net placed over them, as DEET based products aren’t recommended for children 6 months and younger.
7. Avoid sunscreen/repellent combinations. You may have to reapply it too frequently so as to maintain the sunscreen benefits, at the risk of absorbing a high level of mosquito repellent at the same time. It’s better to use separate products for each task, applying the sunscreen first, and then the repellent.
8. Bug zappers and traps are useful in areas where you are sitting outside, like on the patio. They will help to keep the area relatively mosquito free.
What about natural repellents?
“Natural products either use odours which keep bugs at bay or, in the case of citronella, odours that mask the bug-attracting scent of lactic acid on our bodies.” Canadian Living.
9. Citronella. The effectiveness of citronella products, applied directly to the skin or through the air via a candle or other dispersing device, is up for debate. Some people swear by them; other people don’t. Having been in Algonquin Park in July with a natural repellent, I can honestly say, it didn’t work for me! However, Health Canada hasn’t concluded that there are any health risks associated with the use of citronella.
10. Soybean oil. Less effective than DEET but it’s not a traditional chemical compound, so it’s a good choice if you’re concerned about using DEET. At a concentration of 2%, it can provide protection for up to 3.5 hours.
Whatever you choose to protect yourself with, keep the bites at bay this summer AND enjoy the great outdoors!