Preventing Mosquito and Tick Bites

Being active in nature is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. Ottawa is home to many beautiful trails, wooded areas, and scenery. While enjoying the great outdoors, take steps to prevent tick and mosquito bites.  You can help by making this part of your family’s regular routine.

Ticks

Ticks are most often found in wooded, shrubby, long-grassed, or leaf-littered areas providing shade and humidity and the strip immediately bordering such areas. Such tick habitat can be found throughout Ottawa’s geographic area.

What can I do to protect my family from tick bites?

You can practice simple steps to help minimize exposure to ticks. You can make these steps part of your regular routine, if you will be in areas suitable for ticks.

  • Before heading outside, apply sunscreen half an hour before so it can be absorbed into the skin. 
  • Once outside, apply a Canada approved insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin to exposed skin and clothing. Insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed and in the right concentration, depending on age. Visit the Health Canada website to find out which concentration of DEET is best for you and your children. (Sunscreen and insect repellant combination products are not recommended.)
  • Wear long pants, a long sleeved shirt, shoes and socks to cover exposed skin, and tuck your pants into your socks. It will be easier to spot a tick if you choose light coloured clothing.
  • Try to stay on the trails when hiking in the woods and avoid walking in long grass.
  • When you get home, do a tick check on yourself, your children and your pets. Pay careful attention around your toes, knees, groin, armpits and scalp. Try to make tick checks a fun, daily activity with your children so they will want to do one.
  • If you find a tick remove it as soon as possible.  The risk of getting Lyme disease increases with the length of time the tick remains attached.
    • Use fine-pointed tweezers
    • Grasp the tick's head as close to the skin as possible and pull slowly until the tick is removed.
    • Do not twist or rotate the tick. Do not use a match, lotion or anything else on the tick.
    • Wash the bite site with soap and water.
    • See your health care provider if:
      • the tick has been attached for 24 hours or more, or
      • you are unsure how long, or
      • the ticks body looks partially or fully swollen from feeding even if you think it may have been less than 24 hours
    • Monitor yourself:
      • All people bitten by a tick need to monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of Lyme disease for 30 days, even if the doctor gave single dose of antibiotics to prevent onset of illness.
  • Here are some tips to help make your home environment less favourable to ticks:
    • Keep grass mowed
    • Remove brush and fallen leaves from edges of your property, especially if yard is bordered by woods or fields of tall grass
    • Clean up areas under and around bird feeders to reduce attracting small critters such as mice and voles that carry ticks
    • Discourage deer from entering your yard, as ticks also feed on these animals
    • Keep woodpile neat, dry, off the ground, and away from house
  • Teach your children about ticks. Encourage your children to let you know if they find one, so it can be safely removed. Ticks are very small and not easy to see – nymphs are poppy seed-sized and adults are sesame seed-sized. 

Summer Camps and Daycares:

  • If your child is attending a summer camp or daycare, speak with the organizer. Make sure that applying insect repellent and sunscreen before outdoor play is part of the regular routine.
  • Ask how the camp will address finding ticks on the campers. It is important that you are notified when your child will be going into a forested area so you can conduct a tick check at home.
  • To learn more about ticks and Lyme Disease, visit the Ottawa Public Health website.  

Mosquitoes

You can help protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites by following the tips below.

  • Apply an approved mosquito repellent to exposed skin and clothing. Insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed and in the right concentration, depending on age. Visit the Health Canada website to find out which concentration of DEET is best for you and your children.
  • Wear long pants, loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks to limit exposed skin. Be aware that mosquitoes are attracted to darker colours and can still bite through thin, clingy clothing.
  • Try to avoid spending time outdoors between dusk and dawn since this is when mosquitoes are most active. Mosquitoes are also active during the day in or near shady and wooded areas.
  • Make sure all window and doors in your home have well-fitting screens that are in good condition.

Reduce Standing Water

Did you know that mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water (water that does not move or flow)? Mosquitoes need water to breed.

Check around your home to see if you have areas with standing water. This can be a fun activity with your little ones too!  Here are some frequent spots where you might find standing water:

  • Old tires or tire swings (tip: drill large holes in the bottom of the tire to drain water!)
  • Rainwater barrels (tip: ensure every opening is covered by insect screening)
  • Children’s toys
  • Flowerpots and their saucers
  • Wading pools
  • Patio furniture
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Anything that will hold even a little water for a week!

Tips for reducing standing water:

  • Clean eaves troughs regularly to prevent clogs that trap water.
  • Tip fishing boats and other gear onto their sides to drain.
  • Replace the water in bird baths at least once a week.

For more information on mosquitoes, visit the Ottawa Public Health website

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