Mosquitoes can carry diseases that may be passed on to people through mosquito bites. In Australia, some of these include Murray Valley encephalitis virus, Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus, Zika virus and dengue fever. Periods of heavy rainfall or floods can led to ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes, even in non-tropical areas. Diseases that are spread by insects are known as ‘vector-borne’ diseases.
Mosquito-borne diseases can make people ill and, in severe cases, can cause death.
How to avoid mosquito bites
There are many simple things you can do to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, including:
- Avoid outdoor activity when mosquitoes are prevalent. Dusk and dawn is when most mosquitoes are more active, but some will be around during the day.
- Wear long, loose-fitting clothes if mosquitoes are around, preferably in light colours.
- Use effective mosquito repellents on exposed skin and clothing.
- Use ‘knockdown’ sprays and plug-in vaporising devices indoors.
- Sleep under mosquito nets treated with repellents or insecticides if you don’t have flywire screens on windows.
- Outdoors, mosquito coils or citronella candles can be effective in small protected areas.
Choosing a mosquito repellent
Repellents come in liquids, lotions, gels, aerosols and pump sprays. It is important to make sure you choose a mosquito repellent that is safe and effective, and that you always use it according to the instructions on the label. Look for the list of ‘active constituents’ on the label.
Creams and gels based on N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET, or diethyltoluamide) or picaridin are currently regarded as providing the most effective form of protection. Most products provide protection for between one and three hours in typical situations. If you swim or sweat profusely, protection will be less and you may need to reapply.
You should also:
- Choose repellents in which the active constituent is DEET or picaridin (this will be shown on the label).
- Always read and follow directions on the label when using any pesticide product, including insect repellents.
- Apply the repellent sparingly to exposed skin, especially on children.
- Avoid parts of children’s hands that may touch the eyes or mouth.
- Avoid using the repellent on a daily basis for prolonged periods. If long-term protection is needed, consult your pharmacist.
- Stop using the repellent immediately and consult your doctor if you suspect an allergic reaction.
Remember to store repellents where infants and young children can’t reach them.
Control of mosquitoes around the home
You can reduce the risk of mosquito bites if you get rid of potential mosquito breeding sites around your home by:
- installing flywire screens on all windows and self-closing wire screens on doors. Check them regularly and mend any holes
- preventing pools of water from forming – get rid of unused tins, tyres and similar rubbish, clean gutters and drains regularly and mend leaking taps
- changing pets’ drinking water and the water in vases, pot plants and bird baths at least once a week
- putting sand around the base of pot plants to absorb excess water in the dish
- flushing unused toilets once a week
- keeping swimming pools chlorinated or salted and empty them completely when not in use for long periods
- emptying children’s wading pools regularly
- keeping fishponds stocked with fish.
If you have a rainwater tank or alternative water storage devices:
- Make sure that any tops, lids, covers and inlet pipes are close fitting.
- Fit a removable screen mesh to the outlet end of overflow pipes and to all water inlets.
- Make sure any water collection containers have secure lids or screens.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Nurse-on-call Tel. 1300 60 60 24 – for confidential health advice from a registered nurse, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Department of Health, Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Unit Tel. 1300 651 160
- Your local council – for information about mosquito control programs in your area
Things to remember
- Mosquito-borne diseases can cause illness.
- There are many simple things you can do to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Department of Health and Human Services - RHP&R - Health Protection - Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Unit
Page content currently being reviewed.
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.