Dr. Rawls and Ellen Berman 4/19/17

How to Avoid Ticks

Stay on the trail. Ticks hide under moist leaf litter until climbing onto a blade of grass, a twig or branch. Once in dry air they don’t last very long. Open, unshaded areas, well-managed trails, and mowed yards free of leaf litter are less likely to harbor ticks.

Cover up. Before you venture outdoors, cover your body with clothing. Wear a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt, and pants all the way down to your feet.

Be extremely vigilant. Whenever you brush by vegetation, stop and check for the possibility of a tick crawling up your legs or body. Ticks are difficult to spot and some are smaller than a pinhead. Put on reading glasses if you need help spotting a tiny critter.

Treat your pets. All blood-sucking insects carry potential disease-causing microbes. Since pets bring ticks inside, have your pet regularly treated to reduce ticks and fleas.


Check your clothes for ticks. Tumble dry clothing on high heat for at least ten minutes.

Take a shower. Showering within two hours of coming indoors helps wash off unattached ticks and gives you a chance to thoroughly check your body.
Conduct a full body check. Be aware that ticks prefer warm, moist places, so pay special attention to armpits, in and around the ears, back of knees, between the legs, and around your hair.

New Picaridin Repellents Outperformed DEET

Update by Kathy White, MSW, April 3, 2017

To repel ticks and mosquitoes, the CDC website recommends permethrin (an insecticide) on clothing plus DEET or picaridin on exposed skin. Picaridin has been used for decades in other countries and is now available in the U.S. It is less toxic than DEET and is approved for children.  This review will show you the active ingredient, effectiveness for mosquitoes and ticks, type, cost, and if it resists damage to materials.  

For instance the top 3 scores for deer ticks was:

  1. pump spray Sawyer Picaridin 20% which lasted 8.5 hours.
  2. aerosol Ben’s 30% Deet Tick and Insect Wilderness which also lasted 8.5 hours.
  3. pump spray Repel Lemon Eucalyptus which lasted 7 hours.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus is not for children under age 3. It can cause eye irritation. Natrapel with 20% picaridin (available at Target) also worked better than DEET. Repel Scented Family Repellent with 15% DEET worked better than Deep Woods Off with 25% DEET, perhaps because of the fragrance. These two DEET products were rated in the top 5. Ecosmart Organic repellent and IR3535 didn’t work too well. Citronella candles and wristbands and the natural oils geraniol, lemongrass, and rosemary didn’t work at all or lasted less than an hour.

Permethrin, an insecticide, repels ticks and insects. If ticks & insects touch it, they won’t bite and will drop off & die. Apply it to clothes (never skin), the outside of shoes, backpacks, tents, & sleeping bags. Follow label directions. Don’t spray it on the clothes of young children who put things in their mouths.   For more on Permethrin:

You can purchase treated insect shield clothing with permethrin already embedded or do it yourself:

Does it work?

Subjects wearing permethrin-treated sneakers and socks were 73.6 times less likely to have a tick bite than subjects wearing untreated footware. Subjects wearing permethrin-treated shorts and T-shirts were 4.74 and 2.17 times, respectively, less likely to receive a tick bite than subjects wearing untreated shorts and T-shirts. On subjects wearing untreated outfits, 97.6% of attached nymphs were alive, whereas signifcantly fewer (22.6%) attached nymphs were alive on subjects wearing repellent-treated outfits.  Consumer Reports tests 3 brands and found that the clothing was less effective for mosquitoes after being washed.  No data on effectiveness for ticks.  The EPA also has this website; however, they do not endorse any product and rely upon the manufacturer’s honesty.  For instance, you can type in time you want to be protected (I typed in 5-8 hours), and insect (I typed in tick). I left all other boxes blank to get the most results.  The results were similar to the Consumer Report review, but check it out for yourself, realizing that there often is not third party testing.

You can also get Lyme EZ Tick Gaitors,“>

How to Remove a Tick:

  The steps to safely removing a tick start with a pointy tick removal tweezer. Most household tweezers have large, blunt tips in comparison to ticks. This only increases the chances of tearing the tick and spreading possible infections into the bite area.  (Use fine pointy tweezers or tick removal tool) (Tick Ease removal tool and video)

Tick Removers:

A study at Ohio State University in 1995 compared the Pro-Tick Remedy to two other tick removers and tweezers. The researchers found that the Pro-Tick Remedy was better than tweezers & the other tick removers at removing ticks with all the mouthparts intact, and did the best job of removing the cement. (Ticks inject “cement” to hold the tick in place while feeding. The cement isn’t known to cause health problems, but it can cause irritation until the body absorbs it. It causes a hard lump until it is absorbed, which can take a few weeks or more.) 
The report said, “While others (tick removers and tweezers) broke the tip of the hypostome and chelicerae (mouthparts) in at least one tick, the Pro-Tick Remedy succeeded in removing all 51 ticks without damaging any mouthparts . . . the Pro-Tick Remedy removed the most … cement while causing the least damage.”

A second study included Lone Star ticks, which have a longer hypostome and are harder to remove. All the tick removers tested did very well at removing adult ticks & were much better than tweezers for the tiny nymphs.  The Pro-Tick did better than any other tool tested at removal of nymph ticks.  It removed all the mouthparts of 72% of the Lone Star nymphs. Tweezers only removed all the mouthparts in 4% of the nymphs. The researchers concluded that tweezers should never be used for removing tick nymphs. The Pro Tick Remedy is sold at, or you can buy it by sending a check for $6.50 payable to “Lyme Association of K.C.” to: Lyme Association of Kansas City, P.O. Box 25853, Overland Park, KS 66225.




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