While we take the necessary precautions to protect us from COVID-19, there are other infectious diseases that are specific to the summer that we can’t ignore.

Mosquitoes and ticks, aside from being a nuisance, can transmit disease. West Nile virus is spread by infected mosquitoes and it hasn’t disappeared. Similarly, the tick that can spread Lyme disease has reached into more areas of Quebec. In order to reduce the risk of getting bitten — and possibly sick:

  • Wear long, light-coloured clothing when you go outdoors. Tuck your pant legs into your socks if you will be in a wooded, overgrown area. Check for ticks and remove them by gently pulling them off using tweezers, grabbing the tick as close to the skin as possible. Save the tick or take its picture to help identify it.
  • Use repellent to protect yourself. Follow the instructions on the label (more info follows).
  • Use mosquito netting to cover strollers and playpens outdoors and when camping. Fix window screens.
  • Keep mosquitoes out of your backyard by removing all standing water, no matter the amount. Keep ticks away by clearing undergrowth from play areas.

To protect yourself from mosquitoes, use a DEET, icaridin, lemon eucalyptus, or soybean oil-based repellent. For tick protection, only DEET or icaridin-based products work. Lemon eucalyptus, by the way, is also known as ‘lemon eucalyptus oil’ or ‘p-menthane 3.8-diol’ (PMD). It is NOT the same as eucalyptus oil and lemon oil.

No repellent works as long against ticks as it does against mosquitoes. Citronella and other essential oils don’t last for more than an hour or two and they don’t protect against ticks.

Apply the repellent to areas not covered by clothing; not on skin that’s irritated, sunburnt or where there are cuts or scratches. Wash it off when you no longer need it. You’ll have to reapply the repellent after going into the water. Please follow the specific guidelines that tell you how many times you can safely reapply repellent in a day. They’re on the label or at the Santé Québec website.

Don’t let children apply their own repellent. Sunscreen should be applied before repellent. Wait for about 15 or 20 minutes and then apply the repellent to limit how much the body absorbs. I would also suggest not using combination sunscreen and mosquito repellent products because sunscreen has to be applied more generously and more often. You don’t want to unnecessarily expose yourself to excess repellent.

If you want more information about how to protect yourself from ticks or mosquitos and for specific recommendations on how to use repellents based on the active ingredients, the age of the user and what’s safe in pregnancy, I highly recommend the Santé Québec website [ https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/ ] which has lots of well researched information. It would be a shame not to enjoy our all too short warm season and you can, but please take the necessary precautions.

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at McGill Medical School as well as an Attending Physician in the Emergency Department of the McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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