Personal Insect repellents

Learn about personal insect repellents; how to use them safely and how to choose the right one for your needs.

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Protecting against biting insects

Personal insect repellent (also called bug spray) can help protect you from insect bites. There are many products on the market that claim to protect against insect bites. Only those that have been government approved for their safety and effectiveness are allowed for use in Canada.

Protection from biting insects like mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and blackflies is important because insect bites can cause:

In Canada, West Nile virus and Lyme disease are health concerns. However, for most Canadians, the risk of getting these illnesses and serious health effects is very low.

Be aware that:

  • blackflies are active in daylight hours during springtime
  • ticks are often found along trail edges, mostly in wooded areas or tall grass
  • mosquitoes can bite at any time of the day, and are more active at dawn and dusk

Insect bite prevention practices can protect your skin from being exposed to biting insects. You can also choose to use an insect repellent.

Choosing an insect repellent

Make sure you use a registered product labelled as an insect repellent for use on people, and read and follow all label directions.

You can recognize a pest control product registered by Health Canada by the Pest Control Products (PCP) number on the label, for example:

  • Reg. No. 00000 P.C.P. Act
  • Registration No. 00000 Pest Control Products Act

To find the right personal insect repellent for your needs, consult the Pesticide Product Label Database, online or on your mobile device.

About personal insect repellents

Personal insect repellents are available in the form of:
  • sprays
  • lotions
  • clip-on products
  • moist towelettes
  • clothing that has been treated with an insecticide

Personal insect repellent ingredients include:


Personal insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed and in the right concentration, depending on age.

The right concentration of DEET for:

  • adults and children older than 12 years old is up to 30%
  • children aged 2 to 12 years is up to 10%
    • you can apply the product up to 3 times daily
  • children aged 6 months to 2 years old is up to 10%
    • you should not apply the product more than once a day

For children younger than 12 years old, do not use a DEET product on a daily basis for more than a month.

For infants younger than 6 months old, do not use an insect repellent containing DEET. Instead, use a mosquito net when babies are outdoors in a crib or stroller.


Icaridin products repel mosquitoes and ticks. These products should not be used on infants younger than 6 months old.


In Canada, clothing that has been treated with the insecticide permethrin is available to protect against mosquitoes and ticks. Adults, including pregnant women, may wear permethrin-treated clothing; however, it is not available for children under the age of 16.

Adults wearing permethrin-treated clothing may touch or hug young children, but avoid prolonged contact such as carrying a young child who may suckle or chew on the fabric.

Depending on the fabric, permethrin-treated clothing can remain effective for a number of wash cycles, as indicated on the clothing label.

Soybean oil

Soybean oil insect repellents repel mosquitoes and blackflies. There are no age restrictions for these products.


Clip-on devices containing metofluthrin repel mosquitoes. Some of these products also repel blackflies. There are no age restrictions for these products, but children should not be allowed to replace the refill disks.

P-Menthane-3,8-diol / Oil of lemon eucalyptus, hydrated, cyclized

Products with p-Menthane-3,8-diol or Oil of lemon eucalyptus, hydrated, cyclized repel mosquitoes. Some products also repel blackflies. These products should not be used on children younger than 3 years old.

Mixture of essential oils

Personal insect repellents to repel mosquitoes with a mixture of lemon, eucalyptus, pine needle, geranium and camphor essential oils:

  • can be used safely when applied as directed
  • should not be used on children younger than 2 years old

Products that do not protect well against biting insects

Certain products do not protect well against insect bites because they may not be as effective or long lasting. Many area repellents, such as lanterns and coils are approved in Canada to repel mosquitoes from a limited area. However, these do not protect people from insect bites as well as personal insect repellents.

These products include:

  • citrosa houseplants
  • odour-baited mosquito traps
  • electronic or ultrasonic devices
  • electrocuting devices, like bug zappers
  • skin moisturizer or sunscreen combined with insect repellent
    • products that combine skin moisturizer and insect repellent are not approved in Canada
  • wristbands, neckbands and ankle bands that contain repellents

Applying sunscreen and personal insect repellents

Sunscreen and personal insect repellents can be worn safely at the same time. Apply the sunscreen first and then the insect repellent. Combination sunscreen and insect repellent products are no longer available in Canada.

Using personal insect repellents safely

To use a personal insect repellent safely, it is important to always read the entire product label carefully before use and follow all directions. The product label specifies what pests the product protects you from. For example, a product that repels mosquitoes might not work for ticks or blackflies. Depending on the ingredients, some products repel insects for a longer time than others do. The label also states any age restrictions for product use, how to apply it, how much to apply, and how often.

Directions include:

  • restrictions for use on children
  • what insects the repellent works against
  • the maximum number of applications allowed per day

When using a personal insect repellent:

  • keep all product containers out of the reach of children and pets
  • supervise its use on children
  • apply only a small amount of repellent on exposed skin or on top of clothing
    • repeat applications only as needed and directed on the product label
  • wash treated skin with soap and water when you return indoors or when protection is no longer needed

If you are concerned that you might be sensitive to a product:

  • apply the product to a small area of skin on your arm
  • wait 24 hours to see if you have a reaction

If you think you or your child is having a reaction to an insect repellent:

  • stop using the product immediately
  • wash treated skin
  • get medical help
    • take the product container with you when visiting your health care provider

When using personal insect repellents:

  • do not use it on open wounds or skin that is irritated or sunburned
  • do not spray directly onto your face because you may get it in your eyes
    • instead, spray it on your hands first and then apply to your face
    • if you've accidentally sprayed repellent in your eyes, rinse them immediately with water
  • do not apply directly to a child's hands because they may get it in their eyes or mouth
  • do not apply sprays indoors, in enclosed spaces, or near food because you may inhale or eat the spray mist

How we protect you

All pesticides must be approved before they can be imported, sold or used in Canada. We conduct science-based risk assessments to ensure that pesticide products meet current health and environmental standards.

A pesticide will only be approved:

  • when it works well to control a pest
  • there is evidence to prove that the pesticide won't cause harm to human health or the environment when used according to the label

Contact us

For more information, contact the Pest Management Information Service at 1-800-267-6315.

For more information

Pesticides in Canada

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