Mosquitoes: How not to get eaten alive

Keep those pesky bugs away this summer


How do we protect ourselves from mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever? It’s pretty simple: mosquito repellent, vaccinations, and prescriptions.

Mosquito repellents

Use an insect repellent spray or lotion to keep bugs away. Use it during the daytime and the evening. The most useful repellents contain 20 to 30% N.N. Diethyl-metatoluamide (DEET). Products with higher concentrations of DEET are not more effective than those with lower concentrations, but they last longer.

Apply insect repellent 15 to 30 minutes after sunscreen application.

Concentration of DEET Protection Time
30% 6 hours
15% 5 hours
10% 3 hours
5% 2 hours

Tips for proper use of insect repellents

  1. Adults should apply repellent for children. Do not allow children to apply it themselves. Always read the entire label carefully before using repellents.
  2. Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands to reduce the chance of getting the repellent in their eyes and mouths.
  3. Apply the repellent only on exposed skin surfaces or on top of clothing. Do not use under clothing.
  4. Do not use aerosol or pump sprays directly on the face. Spray your hands and then rub the product over the face. Use only in well-ventilated areas.
  5. Do not use the repellent on open wounds, cuts, or if your skin is irritated or sunburned.
  6. Wash treated skin with soap and water when you return indoors or when protection is no longer needed. If clothing is treated, it should be washed before being worn again.
  7. If you suspect a reaction to the insect repellent, stop using it and wash the treated skin. Call the poison control center:  in Greater Vancouver, call 604-682-5050; in BC, call 1-800-567-8911.

Other useful precautions

  1. Stay in air conditioned accommodation.
  2. Use mosquito nets on beds and use screens on windows and doors.
  3. Use unscented make-up, deodorant, soap and shampoo. Insects are attracted to the perfume.
  4. It is important to avoid insect bites even if you are taking malaria medication or have been vaccinated against yellow fever or Japanese encephalitis.
  5. Wear light-coloured clothes that cover your legs and arms.
  6. Stay indoors during the evening when mosquitoes are most active.

Book an appointment

If you are traveling, book an appointment at the VCH Travel Clinic, ideally 4 to 6 weeks prior to departure. The travel doctors on site will provide prescriptions, detailed health advice, and vaccine recommendations tailored to the individual’s medical history and travel itinerary – the travel nurses will provide the vaccinations after the initial assessment is complete.

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