This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase I earn a commission at no extra cost for you.
Ticks are more prevalent than ever due to climate change and the disappearance of their natural predators. They wait for potential prey (questing) everywhere, in grasses, bushes, in your garden, or along paths. For every nature lover, outdoor fan, or animal lover who walks his dog, tick protection and knowing what repels ticks on humans and pets is important. Because when ticks bite, they can transmit bacteria and viruses and make you really sick. Appropriate clothing and the prophylactic use of tick repellents to prevent tick bites on humans and pets should be standard procedures for any nature lover. But what is the best way to repel ticks on humans?
Tick Repellent for Humans
Many home remedies or well-known natural tick repellents do some work to keep ticks at bay. But they should only be part of several measures you should take to protect yourself from ticks. Synthetic tick repellents are more effective than these traditional home remedies.
Modern synthetic tick repellents prevent the small parasites from finding or attaching to the host either by a repelling effect or by being toxic and killing the parasite as it crawls around on the treated surfaces. However, many people fear unwanted side effects from synthetic tick repellents.
Synthetic Tick Repellents
Most common tick repellents are DEET, Picaridin, and Permethrin
- DEET has been long used as a bug repellent as it works for almost all parasites including ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. DEET is applied to exposed skin. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using repellents that contain 20% or more DEET formulation.
DEET should be carefully applied to hands, neck, and other exposed areas while avoiding contact with the eyes and mouth. It is readily available in many stores under different brands of different strengths.
- Picaridin is a chemical that consists of piperidines. Picaridin “covers” human scent and prevents ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects from finding their victims. Products containing Picaridin are very reliable and effective.
- Permethrin is a synthetic compound in the pyrethroid family as found in the chrysanthemum flower. It is highly toxic to insects. Permethrin will kill ticks when they get in contact with it. It is recommended to wear permethrin-treated clothing when going outdoors, in addition to applying a repellent like DEET on the skin.
Among all the other repelling methods, using a DEET-based product has been proven over many years and in millions of applications to be some of the most effective and best tick repellents.
There are many repellents containing the active ingredient DEET, its chemical name is N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide. They are available in different forms such as lotions, sprays, liquids, and wipes. Tick repellents containing DEET are applied directly to the exposed areas of skin.
Being a true repellent, DEET does not kill ticks or biting insects. Instead, it conceals the human smell and irritates the bug’s senses, keeping the ticks away from humans.
As the DEET products are available for mosquitos and ticks, make sure you purchase the product specified for use on ticks.
Using Permethrin to treat Clothing
In addition to applying personal insect repellent directly onto the skin, it is also recommended to wear protective clothing. Covering up with long-sleeved shirts, socks, and long pants make it more difficult for ticks to find a bite site. This gives you time to find the tick and remove it.
Treating your clothes with an anti-tick spray that contains the active ingredient Permethrin helps in killing ticks and other bloodsuckers instead of just masking the human smell.
When sprayed onto clothing the permethrin gets absorbed into the fabric and dries off in a couple of minutes. Properly treated clothing has a long-lasting protective effect.
Permethrin-treated clothing that keeps ticks and other biting insects off can be readily purchased.
Natural tick repellents are mostly made using essential oils. They are considered to be safer regarding unwanted side effects than synthetic repellents as they are herbal. However, they may not be not as effective as chemical methods. Also, natural repellents need to be applied more frequently to repel effectively. They work only on the areas treated with the sprays and not on the entire body.
Important to note is that some people are sensitive to certain essential oils and oils can cause allergies – especially in connection with the sunlight. If an oil causes a rash, reddens the skin, or feels uncomfortable, another oil must be used.
Preventing Tick Bites and what repels ticks on humans
There is no single measure to what repels ticks on humans best. There is also no single application that provides one hundred percent reliable protection against tick bites. The most effective way to prevent tick bites is a combination of tick repellents and other safety precautions. This includes tightly fitting clothing, regular inspections of pant legs, and avoiding areas where ticks are lurking.
The following are a few simple tips that may reduce the risk of being bitten by ticks. The below list indicates measures before, during, and after outdoor activities. Some of these measures have together a risk-reducing effect only in combination and are ineffective if solely applied.
- Use tick repellents. This will not only keep annoying ticks at bay but will also keep mosquitoes away
- Apply a permethrin-based tick repellent onto your shoes and trousers as the ticks adhere mostly to lower legs or feet.
- When going outdoors, wear light-colored cloth with a long-sleeved shirt. Pick a fabric that is tightly woven so as to avoid the ticks hanging onto it.
- Avoid moving through high grass or undergrowth if possible. Ticks feel here especially comfortable waiting for a potential host to bite.
- Soon after you come home from the outdoors, inspect your clothes and search your entire body for ticks. Ticks need time crawling up your clothes and body until they find a suitable site for the bite. They prefer thin and warm skin. Search the back of your knees, the stomach and chest area, and crotch for ticks. In children do also check on the head, behind the ears, on the hairline, and on the neck.
- Take a shower as soon as you come home.
Remember, no repellent can provide 100 percent protection from tick bites. Appropriate clothing, knowing what repels ticks on humans, how ticks behave, and where they hide, are the best to protect yourself and your family from a tick bite and the dangerous diseases ticks can transmit.