Earthquakes No, Mosquitos Yes

Jun 28, 2022

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

We are lucky to live in Manitoba. We have no earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, or major tornadoes. Keep telling yourself this as you try to have a beverage on your back deck or get the grass cut this evening. The mosquitos this year are horrible and like many of you I hate mosquitoes. A few are tolerable, however when you let 10 in the house every time you open the door and need spray to get a across a cement parking lot, it is a little much.

I guess we are lucky in a way as well. While our mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus, they are relatively less dangerous than mosquitoes in other parts of the world. Malaria is a mosquito transmitted parasitic infection leading to over 210 million cases globally, and 400,000 deaths every year, most of those in young children. Dengue is the most prevalent viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes with over 90 million symptomatic cases and an estimated 40,000 deaths every year. So now that you are feeling thankful to be in Manitoba again here is some information on preventing mosquito bites and using sprays as safely as possible.

Mosquito repellant or "bug juice" is the most common method to prevent bites while being outside. The DCP has a large selection of mosquito sprays this year with a variety of different products. Like the cough and cold aisle, it can get a little confusing about which product is best for you or your children.

Have you ever left your vehicle or lawnmower running and noticed mosquitoes attack it? Mosquitos have receptors that are attracted carbon dioxide. They also have another receptor which can pick up lactic acid in sweat and human odor secretions. The more you breathe and sweat the more you attract mosquitos. DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) acts on bugs in two ways. It affects the receptors mosquitos use to smell your carbon dioxide or odors and secondly it somehow confuses them in a way to not land on and bite you. The most common question we get is on the safety profile of DEET. Like any drug or chemical it is always a risk versus and benefit.

The US Environmental Protection Agency last conducted a safety review on DEET in 2014. The agency reports it had not identified any risks of concern to human health, non-target species or the environment. They believe that the normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population, including children when used properly. We do know DEET can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis. These skin irritations are more common in younger children. The product is greasy, sticky and it does not smell great. Also be cautious as it can damage synthetic fabrics and even plastics, which does highlight it should maybe be used sparingly.

Concentrations available range from 5 to 30%. The higher percentage of DEET used, the longer the protection lasts. Infants aged 6 months up and kids to 12 years of age can use DEET of 10% or less. Ages 6 months to 2 years should only have it applied once per day. The Canadian Pediatric Society now lists the use of DEET in kids as a second line option to icaridin.

Icaridin or picaridin is now the first line choice in infants and children because it has a longer duration of action compared to DEET, again based on the concentration. This chemical still has a similar method of action to DEET. Formulations of 10% are reported to work for three to five hours, while 30% can last eight to 10 hours. You might only need to apply it once in an outdoor excursion. It also works great in adults, and is less sticky, irritating, and greasy as compared to DEET. Icaridin does not dissolve plastics, synthetics, or sealants. Products with icaridin are more costly than those using DEET. Does it work better? In my opinion it works about as well as DEET when using similar percentages.

If you are concerned about DEET or icaridin being directly on your skin, spray your light-colored pants, long sleeves, and a hat instead. You can also wear a mosquito net instead of spraying the face. If you have sprayed it directly on the skin, make sure you shower it off when you get back indoors. If you are concerned about using mosquito spray on your children of yourself, products like citronella candles, Thermacell and mosquito "magnets" do work well. Also, remember to reduce or eliminate all standing water in your property as this will significantly increase mosquito counts.

Good luck out there this summer, you are going to need it.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


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