Information update

Safe use of personal insect repellents

Starting date:
July 22, 2019
Type of communication:
Information Update
Chemicals, Outdoor Living, Specialized Products
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Important Safety Information
General Public
Identification number:

Last updated: 2019-07-22


Enjoy the warm summer weather without the bug bites! Climate and environmental changes have led to an increased risk of tick and mosquito borne diseases in Canada. Health Canada is reminding Canadians to protect themselves from bug bites by safely using bug spray and other insect repellents.

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 as directed.

All insect repellents, including sprays, lotions and wearable devices, must be approved by Health Canada to be considered safe and effective. This includes natural insect repellents like citronella and other essential oils. The label directions on approved products are designed to help you and your family use these products safely and effectively.

What you should do

Preventing bug bites is your best protection. To help avoid bug bites, cover up exposed skin with clothing and always follow these important steps when using a personal insect repellent: 

  • Use insect repellents that have been approved by Health Canada.
    • They will 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.
  • 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 talk to your health care provider.
    • When you go see your health care provider, take the product container with you.
  • If you 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.