For Clothing and Gear
Wearing Permethrin treated clothing the MOST effective way to protect yourself from ticks, as well as mosquitoes and other biting insects. Permethrin kills ticks after only 5 to 30 seconds of exposure. It is both odorless and flame resistant after drying, offering excellent protection for hunters and outdoor workers such as wild land firefighters. It is also safe for all ages, and pregnant women.
Karl Ford, PhD., co-author of the National Park Service publication Tick surveillance and disease prevention on the Appalachian Trail, stated that “Proper clothing treated with Permethrin is the single most important preventive measure a hiker can take”. As ticks crawl upward in search of a location to attach, keeping shoes, socks or wearing pre-treated gaiters and pants can reduce your potential exposure.
You may buy Permethrin spray to treat your own clothing and gear at home or you may purchase pre-treated clothing, gear and pet protection from a variety of companies. Home treatments are generally effective through 6 washes. Permethrin should never be applied directly to skin nor to clothing while they are on your body. It is important to follow label instructions carefully for both safety and effectiveness.
Insect Shield is a company that offers commercially treated clothing specifically designed for outdoor workers, children and pets (not on cats!). They also provide a mail in service for commercial treatment of your own clothing and gear. Commercially treated clothing and gear is effective to 70 washes.
Visit the Insect Shield webpage through our affiliates link and COTBDAA will receive 10% back on your purchases. Some products can be mail ordered through Insect Shield partners or purchased at outdoor stores within Colorado.
For the Skin
The use of repellents applied to the skin can reduce your exposure to tick bites. It is important to keep in mind that insect repellents have varying degrees of effectiveness against ticks. Consumer Reports provides effectiveness ratings for both mosquitoes and deer ticks on a number of repellents that contain Picaridin, DEET and essential oils. Though DEET containing products have been shown to be the most effective overall insect repellent for deterring mosquitoes, black flies and gnats; it is only effective at repelling ticks for brief time periods after being applied and then must be re-applied. Some products made with Picaridin, IR3525, as well as natural oils, like Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, have shown higher effectiveness against ticks.
The EPA provides a tool for evaluating the right repellent depending on your needs here.
Many products are not recommended on young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidelines for repellent use in children are found here.
Though effective at repelling ticks, many people are reluctant to use synthetic chemicals, especially those containing DEET. The CDC is currently working with a commercial partner, Evolva, to evaluate possible formulations to develop a completely natural insect repellent made from a chemical called Nootkatone. Nootkatone, is a natural ingredient found in Alaskan yellow cedar trees, some herbs, and citrus fruits, and it is responsible for the distinctive smell of grapefruits. Division of Vector-Borne Disease scientists have found Nootkatone to be an effective repellent and insecticide for use against mosquitoes, ticks and other pests.
In addition to Nootkatone, the CDC describes several other natural based repellents that are effective against ticks here.