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I’ll Just Go Out to the Wood Pile…

Not many people know this way to tick-proof clothing

Not so fast! I was reminded Sunday when I sprayed my running shoes to pass along something that I learned only recently that every suburban homeowner needs to know.

Most of us know or have heard anecdotally how bad Lyme disease can be when left untreated – which can easily happen because it’s not always possible to know when you’ve been bitten. What is not generally known is that there is a class of products that when sprayed on shoes and clothing actually kill ticks pretty much on contact. It’s available. I believe it’s safe, and if you venture outside almost any time of year except the dead of winter you would be well advised to use it. It’s called permethrin.

That’s the active ingredient, not a brand name (there are several brands). You can buy it in spray or pump form at outdoor stores like REI or on amazon, and one treatment survives several washes. Unless you plan to roll in the grass you only need to treat shoes, socks and trousers below the knee (trousers of course tucked into socks) to get incredibly effective protection. I have read studies that describe ticks just rolling over dead as soon as they hit the treated fabric. With the warming weather, now is probably a good time to add one of these canisters to your outdoor arsenal.

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Charlene March 15, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Don't spray it on anything your cat might rub against, like the lower half of your legs. Also, define "small concentration"
Elyse March 15, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Permethrin isn't the answer. Read the toxicity on http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/Permtech.pdf - it also kills honeybees, which are already in trouble. "Permethrin is highly toxic to invertebrates, including honey bees and other beneficial insects. The topical LC50 for honeybees is 0.029 ug/bee.1,3" . Before you spray any insect repellent/insectcidie, you really should research it. With search engines at everybody's fingertips, there's no reason not to do so. And in spraying your yard for ticks, make sure BEFORE that the application isn't going to kill beneficial insects or amphibians. Amphibians are extremely suspectible to chemical disruptors. Are you having your house painted? Mildew removers like Jomax are toxic to fish, and can damage rivers. As for ticks, the best option is to wear light colored clothing and pets, brush or comb them. As for pesticides, etc. as someone else pointed out, yes, Fairfield County has a very high incidence of certain cancers (my doctor told me this). When you see how many people spray everything with something, it makes you wonder.
Ade March 15, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Glen - I keep looking for a man toiling around New Canaan with chains around his ankles, yet I never seem to find you. What exactly do you think you should be rewarded for or with?
Peter Wild March 17, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Elyse, With great respect I am also a beekeeper. These solutions are very nuanced. I am only sharing the practice of spraying permethrin on clothing (and allowing it to dry as recommended for 4+ hours before wearing). I want to be able to work my bees without contracting the dreaded Lyme; and this seems to be a solution that doesn't have an impact beyond my own clothing. Nothing's perfect....yet. I do appreciate your concern for the honeybees....which I deeply share. Peter
Kendall Svengalis June 02, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Thanks for the recommendation, Peter. I intend to use it and share it with my family members who spend time outdors and in the woods. I've known a number of people who have contracted Lyme disease and they were laid up with painful symptoms for months. The risks of permethrin are greatly exaggerated. It's like the phony Alar scare of a number of years ago that was based on feeding mega doses to rats that was the equivalent of a human ingesting 20,000 Alar-aprayed apples per day. I cut down my apple consumption to five per day and have been fine. As the noted biologist Bruce N. Ames of UC Berkeley has documented, Americans ingest roughly 5,000 to 10,000 different natural pesticides and their breakdown products, and eat about 1,500 mg of natural pesticides per person per day, which is about 10,000 times more than the 0.09 mg they consume of synthetic pesticide residues.

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