Q. My family has been invited to spend time at a relative's cottage north of Toronto. I'm worried about West Nile, since I'm pregnant and have two preschoolers. How can I protect us from mosquitoes or should we just stay home?
A. Be aware of what you can do to protect yourself from West Nile Virus. Health Canada recommends the following steps:
Put on insect repellent whenever you go outdoors. While we have become better at putting on sunscreen, remember to think of insect repellent. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends 10 percent DEET in children down to six months, however the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US EPA now recommends 30 percent DEET down to two months of age. Remember to follow the package instructions and spray as directed. These products have been used safely for years in Canada.
Protect infants with netting, cover exposed skin or keep them indoors when mosquitoes are active.
Put on protective clothing when mosquitoes are most active, usually at dawn and dusk. Wear light colours, as mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours.
Remove all sources of standing water. Mosquito breeding grounds are areas with standing water such as in flower pots and rubber tires.
Consider the use of non-chemical methods to prevent mosquito bites as a first line of defense against West Nile virus if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, although there is no evidence that DEET is a health hazard to unborn babies or children who are breastfeeding.