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Protect Yourself and Your Family From Mosquito Bites

Fact Sheet   Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) 199KB

West Nile virus (WNV) is a virus that is spread by mosquitoes. The best way to protect yourself and your family from becoming infected with WNV is by protecting yourselves from mosquito bites. This page provides tips to help you and your family enjoy the outdoors with fewer mosquito bites.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Cover up. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts and pants with fabric thick enough to prevent mosquitoes from biting. Shoes and socks are also recommended.
  • Avoid being outdoors in the early evening to morning. This is when mosquitoes are most active and likely to bite.
  • Reduce mosquito breeding sites around your home. Mosquitoes breed in water that has been standing for seven days or longer.
  • Use an insect repellent if required. You only need to use a repellent if you are going to be outdoors during the early evening to morning hours when mosquitoes tend to be feeding, or when in a wooded, shaded or swampy area.
    • Repellents that contain DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or Icaridin are most effective. DEET based products are available with concentrations of 5% - 30%. Ensure that you choose the correct DEET or Icaridin containing product that is suitable for the age of the person and for the time spent outdoors. This information is on the label.
    • Non-DEET repellents are available in Canada as well, although data on their safety and effectiveness is limited.
    • When using any insect repellent, carefully read and strictly follow the manufacturer’s directions. Even non-DEET repellents have restrictions on their use.
    • For more detailed information visit our page on insect repellents .
    • There is no evidence that the use of DEET or Icaridin by pregnant or breastfeeding women poses a risk to unborn babies or children who are nursing. However, as a safety precaution, women in these situations may wish to consider the use of non-chemical methods to protect against mosquito bites.


  • Outdoor repellents such as citronella candles and mosquito coils are not entirely effective at protecting against mosquitoes. They must be used under proper conditions. The area needs to be protected so there is little breeze to dissipate (scatter) the ingredients.
  • Ultrasonic devices, incense, and bug zappers have not been shown to be effective in preventing mosquito bites. The purpose of these devices is to attract mosquitoes. Therefore, if you wish to use one, ensure that it is located away from the area where people are located.
  • Protection against mosquitoes can also be effective against Lyme Disease .

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WNV and Pregnant Women

  • There are very few clinical cases of WNV being transmitted from a mother to her unborn baby, so determining risk is difficult.
  • There is some evidence that it is possible to pass WNV to an unborn child. If you are pregnant you should take steps to reduce your risk of mosquito bites if you live in an area where WNv is active.
  • You should cover up, avoid being outdoors in the early evening to early morning, remove mosquito breeding grounds from around your home (get rid of any standing water etc.) and use a recommended insect repellent.
  • If you develop symptoms of WNV infection, you should consult your doctor right away.

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WNV and Breastfeeding Mothers

  • There is evidence that the transmission of WNV through breast milk is possible.
  • Laboratory tests have found WNV in breast milk.
  • It appears that WNV can be passed to a child through breast milk, but the level of risk is still unknown.
  • Women who are breastfeeding their infants should contact their doctors for advice if they have symptoms of any illness, including WNV. However, the health benefits of breastfeeding are well known and new mothers should continue to breastfeed their newborn infants unless advised otherwise by their physician.
  • Women who have concerns about the potential to transmit WNV through breastfeeding should consult their doctor for advice in their specific situation.

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Mosquito Protection for Babies and Children

  • Anyone can become infected with WNV if bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • Most people, including babies and children who are bitten by mosquitoes carrying WNV, may experience no symptoms or a very mild illness.
  • Babies and children need adults to help them take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
  • When using insect repellent, there are specific instructions for the type and amount of repellent that should be used on babies and children. Visit our page on  insect repellents  for more detailed information.
  • Parents or caregivers should contact a doctor immediately if a child develops symptoms such as high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, severe headaches, stiff neck, or if his or her eyes become sensitive to light.

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