Safe use of personal insect repellents

Starting date:
May 25, 2018
Type of communication:
Information Update
Subcategory:
Outdoor Living
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Issue:
Chemical Hazard, Physical Hazard, Poisoning Hazard, Unauthorized products
Audience:
General Public
Identification number:
RA-59792

Issue

While enjoying the warm summer weather, don't forget to protect yourself from pesky bugs that bite! Health Canada is reminding Canadians to use bug spray and other insect repellents safely to avoid mosquito and other bug bites.

Bug bites can cause a number of health problems from itchiness and irritation to potentially serious diseases. Personal insect repellents can help protect you from mosquito, blackfly and tick bites, but it's important to remember that they should be used only as directed.

All insect repellents, whether they are sprays, lotions or wearable devices, must be approved by Health Canada for safety and effectiveness. This includes natural insect repellents like citronella or other essential oils. Using approved products according to label directions ensures that they are used safely and effectively.

What you should do

Preventing bug bites is your best protection! To help avoid bug bites, cover exposed skin with clothing as much as possible. If you choose to use a personal insect repellent, follow these important steps:  

  • Use insect repellents that have been approved by Health Canada. (They have a Pest Control Product (PCP) registration number on the product label. This code has up to five digits and sometimes two extra characters at the end. For example, PCP Reg. No. 12345 or 12345.xx.)
  • Always read the entire label carefully before using, and follow all directions. This includes restrictions for use on children and the maximum number of applications allowed per day.
  • Keep in mind that insect repellents are proven to work against only the insects listed on the label.
  • Apply only a small amount of repellent on exposed skin or on top of clothing. (You don’t need a lot for it to be effective.)
  • Never spray insect repellents directly into your face. Spray on your hands first and then apply to your face.
  • Try not to get repellent in your eyes. If you do, rinse them immediately with water.
  • Keep all insect repellent containers out of reach and sight of children and pets and supervise the application of insect repellents on children. Avoid applying repellent to children's hands to reduce the chance of their getting repellent in their eyes and mouths if they touch their hands to their eyes or mouth.
  • If you are concerned that you might be sensitive to a product, apply the product to a small area of skin on your arm and wait 24 hours to see if you have a reaction.
  • If you suspect that you or your child is reacting to an insect repellent, stop using the product immediately, wash treated skin, and get medical help. When you go to your health care provider, take the product container with you.

If you wish to buy pesticides online, be aware that you cannot purchase unregistered pesticides online and have them shipped to Canada. The purchaser of the product must bring it into Canada in person.

Learn more about safe use of insect repellents on our webpage.

Report health or safety concerns

Report any adverse events to the manufacturer, who is required by law to report it to Health Canada. You may also report an incident directly to Health Canada by completing an incident report form.

Media enquiries

Health Canada
(613) 957-2983

Public enquiries

(613) 957-2991
1-866-225-0709

What Health Canada is doing

In Canada, pesticides are regulated by the federal government under the Pest Control Products Act and Regulations. Pesticides imported into, sold or used in Canada must be registered by Health Canada. All pesticides must undergo a rigorous science-based review before being approved for sale in Canada. Health Canada’s primary objective in regulating pesticides is to protect the health of Canadians and the environment.