Don’t Let Insects “Bug” You This Summer!
Summer is upon us and that means days at the lake, picnics in the park, and weekend camping trips. But with summertime fun comes uninvited visitors – mosquitoes, ants, ticks, bees and wasps. A bite from any of these insects can quickly spoil your fun. Here’s some tips to protect yourself from those pesky insects.
Dress for Success!
Minimize exposed areas of your skin by wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants. Tuck in shirts and pants into socks, especially in areas where there may be ticks (long grass and wooded areas).
Cover your feet with closed shoes rather than sandals.
Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours so wearing light coloured clothing is best to avoid bites.
Avoid strongly scented products (perfume, cologne, hair products).
Apply insect repellent to all exposed non sensitive areas of the body (follow product instructions).
Treat clothing, tents and mosquito nets with Permethrin when travelling to an area with high risk of malaria or other mosquito borne diseases (follow product instructions and do not apply to skin).
If not sleeping in a sealed or air-conditioned room when travelling to areas with mosquito borne diseases, use a Permethrin-impregnated bed net and tuck in around the bed at all times.
Choosing an Insect Repellent
DEET, icaridin, citronella, eucalyptus – the choices are almost endless! How to choose a repellent:
Chemical vs Natural Products
The most effective repellents contain DEET (10% for children 2-12 years and 30% for adults), or 20% icaridin. Icaridin is a more gentle alternative to DEET that is safe for babies 6 months of age and older.
When travelling to areas with mosquito borne diseases (eg. malaria, dengue, zika, yellow fever, Japanese Encephalitis, chikunguyna) the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends the use of a repellent that contains either DEET or icaridin.
Botanical repellents containing eucalyptus, citronella, soybean oil, geranium oil and castor oil are available but there is not enough evidence available to prove their effectiveness. These may do the trick during Canadian summer months but for travel to areas with mosquito borne diseases it’s best to stick with DEET or icaridin.
What is DEET?
DEET (chemical name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) has traditionally been considered the gold standard of insect repellents and is effective at repelling mosquitos, ticks, black flies, deer flies and chiggers. It has been used for more than 50 years and is the most widely used and studied insect repellent worldwide.
In Canada, DEET-containing repellants are available in concentrations of up to 30%. DEET repellents can be found worldwide in concentrations of up to 100%, but research has shown that concentrations greater than 50% do not provide higher protection. Children 6 months to 12 years of age should use up to 10% DEET, applying no more than 3 times per day on children 2-12 years old, and once per day on children 6 months to 2 years old, and avoiding prolonged use. Adverse events to DEET are rare. The most common side effects from DEET include skin and eye irritation.
DEET should be applied onto exposed skin. It should be used carefully on clothing as it may damage some fabrics as well as some plastics. Some products may also have an unpleasant odour or can leave skin feeling greasy following application. DEET products are available as sprays, wipes, or lotions.
What is Icaridin?
Icaridin, also known as Picaridin (chemical name: hydroxy-ethyl isobutyl piperidine carboxylate) was created in the 1980s and licensed in Canada in 2012. It has similar effectiveness to DEET in repelling mosquitoes, ticks, and black flies.
It can be used in children 6 months of age and older. The Public Health Agency of Canada indicates that Icaridin is the preferred product for children, as it requires less frequent application than 10% DEET. It has minimal odour, is non-greasy, and will not damage synthetic material or plastics.
Tips for Applying Repellents:
Avoid spraying repellent near face, eyes, and food, and wash hands after applying. Do not use over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
If using sunscreen, apply repellent 15-20 minutes after the sunscreen is applied.
DEET and icaridin can be used when pregnant or breastfeeding but should not be applied directly to the abdomen or nipple area.
When applying repellent to children, adults should spray first on their own hands, then spread onto the child’s exposed skin while avoiding the child’s hands, eyes, mouth and sparingly around the ears.
Repellent may need to be reapplied more frequently than what is indicted on the label, so reapply as needed. If biting is noticed than reapply!
Help, I’ve been eaten alive!
Despite your best efforts you ended up with a few bites. Here’s a few ways to soothe your bites:
Itching can be temporarily relieved by applying a product to the bite containing ammonia (i.e. afterbite), calamine lotion, or an over the counter cortisone cream.
Applying a cold compress with ice can also help to temporarily relieve itching and help with swelling.
For people who experience more severe reactions to mosquito bites an over the counter antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Reactine), or loratadine (Claritin) can help relieve swelling an itching. Diphenhydramine may cause drowsiness so cetirizine or loratadine may be more suitable for daytime use. Read and follow the instructions on the labels and do not give antihistamines to your child without discussing with your doctor first.
If you are stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet remain as quiet and calm as possible. Leave the area as the nest may be close by.
Remove the stinger by flaking or scraping the stinger off your skin (don’t squeeze or pull the stinger as this may inject venom into your skin).
After working or spending time in areas with leaves, tall grasses or woodpiles check your entire body for ticks, including groin, scalp, and armpits.
Use tweezers with a fine tip to remove the tick. The tick’s mouth will be stuck in your skin and the body will be above the skin.
Don’t grab the tick from its swollen belly as this could push infected fluid into your body.
Grab the tick from as close as its mouth as you can. Gently pull straight out until the tick’s mouth lets go of your skin. Don’t twist the tick as the body may break off leaving the head in your skin.
After removing the tick was the area with warm soapy water.