There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to tick prevention – the only guarantee is that ticks will be around – but a proactive approach can minimize the potential for lifelong health issues, and reduce these pests to a simple, minor annoyance.
Tick numbers usually peak in early June, but depending on spring temperatures, they can be common from April through July. If you spend time in the woods and in grassy areas, you’re going to attract ticks. And we know that in addition to being bloodsucking pests, they can spread serious blood-borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. So how do you protect yourself?
Start by wearing light-colored clothing with long sleeves and pants. Keep the pantlegs tucked into your socks. Do periodic checks and be sure to examine yourself after your outing.
Use a repellent. Most people who spend time outdoors are familiar with the ingredient DEET, contained in many commercial insect repellents. It can be sprayed directly on your skin, and repellents that contain 20 percent to 30 percent DEET will repel ticks for several hours. Permethrin is another option. Unlike DEET, which only repels ticks, permethrin causes muscle spasms, paralysis, and death for ticks if they touch it or consume it. Permethrin-based products currently on the market can also last up to six washes, making a bottle go a long way. And the best part? It’s odorless; however, because of its potent abilities, permethrin can only be applied to clothing and fabric.
Permethrin-based sprays can be purchased at most major retailers and is roughly the same price as popular repellents containing DEET. Look for a spray that contains at least 0.5 percent of permethrin. Pre-treated clothing containing permethrin is also available.
When treating clothing with permethrin on your own, be sure to read the instructions carefully. Apply the spray in a well-ventilated area, or outside. Then, let clothes air-dry by hanging them up on a line, or by leaving them out on a porch or outdoor table. Once dry, the treated clothing can be worn immediately.
The next time you embark on an outdoor adventure, make sure you’ve got the right spray, and prevent these tiny critters from creating big problems.