Deer ticks, repelled, permethrin
Photo by John Tann
This common deer tick can be repelled easily and safely with permethrin-treated clothes.

With the unofficial start of summer upon us, there’s good news for those that are troubled by ticks. A new U.S. government study confirms that insecticide-treated clothes marketed for preventing tick-borne illnesses do, in fact, work to repel the pests.

The study, published May 24 in the Journal of Medical Entomology, involved three types of ticks that, in the United States, are major carriers of disease. They include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and what’s known as southern tick-associated rash illness, or STARI.

Dead Ticks

Researchers found that the garments either quickly caused ticks to fall off, or rendered them unable to bite. The clothes were pretreated with permethrin, a synthetic form of an insect-thwarting compound from the chrysanthemum flower. It’s used in insecticide sprays and shampoos and creams that treat lice and scabies.

Several companies already market permethrin-treated shirts, pants, socks and other clothing, as a way to ward off disease-transmitting pests. The new study adds to evidence that the garments are indeed toxic to ticks, according to senior researcher Lars Eisen, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Permethrin Works

“All tested tick species and life stages experienced the ‘hot-foot’ effect after coming into contact with permethrin-treated clothing,” Eisen told CBS News.

He explained, the ticks dropped off of “vertically oriented” clothes — picture a pair of pants when a person is standing. In addition, when the ticks were in contact with the clothes for up to five minutes, they lost their ability to move normally and to bite.

The CDC already recommends permethrin as one tactic for avoiding tick bites. It says that people can “treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents, with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin.”

Not to Fear

Some people may be wary of chemically treated clothes. But the amount of permethrin needed is very low. A solution containing only 0.5 percent of the pesticide is impregnated into the fabric. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, permethrin is “poorly absorbed” through the skin, and there’s no evidence that treated clothing could be harmful to children or pregnant women.

Some other CDC-recommended ways to cut the risk of tick-borne diseases:

  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and “leaf litter.”
  • Walk in the center of outdoor trails.
  • Use EPA-registered repellents containing ingredients such as DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Thoroughly check your body and clothes for ticks after being outdoors; and shower within two hours of coming back indoors.

Now You can have a tick-free Summer!

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