Ain't No Ticks On Me (hopefully)
May 13, 2024 11:37 AM   Subscribe

City kid here heading up to the Hudson Valley for Memorial Day, where I wanna frolic in the country. Gimme your best recs for tick repellant.

Both my mother and brother have Lyme Disease and I've seen what that's done to them, so I'd really like to avoid getting it. I know about the proper behavioral things to do (tuck pants cuffs into socks, steer clear of brush and tall grass, check yourself after going outside), I'd just also like to boost it with a repellant of some sort. I have no objections to using something with DEET, especially since it seems like that's got the best results.

No plans for backwoods camping or anything, it would mostly be walking around a cute town and maybe one or two walks on "easy" trails somewhere. The weather is also going to be on the coolish side from what I can see so I'd be in long pants and long sleeves for sure. I was just not expecting anything more than "Deep Woods OFF" at the store and I'm a bit stumped.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
soak your clothes in permethrin and let them dry.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:46 AM on May 13 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If you stay on the trails, you're almost guaranteed not to get ticks on you. If you really want something to spray on you, there are two products you should consider. Permethrin is used on your clothes, and then DEET or picaridin is used on your skin.

I prefer picaridin over DEET because it's less oily and smelly, but equally effective. We use products from Sawyer; their picaridin repellent comes in either a spray or a lotion (you can use the lotion alongside sunscreen - I think their website says which order to apply them).

If you use permethrin, just know that it's toxic to cats so if you have pets you should probably wash the clothes and don't let them lick it.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:47 AM on May 13 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Leg gaiters, Sawyer permethrin spray. We were supposed to stay in the Catskills last August and this was our host's recommendations.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:07 PM on May 13 [6 favorites]

Best answer: A tip from someone who lives in a tick epicenter and isn't willing to use extensive preventive measures every time I step out the door: showering and checking yourself for ticks by feel before bed is also a good option. If you find one that's attached, it probably wasn't on long enough to matter, but you can use telehealth to get some doxycycline anyway.
posted by metasarah at 12:11 PM on May 13 [11 favorites]

One more thing I’d recommend is carry a tick removal key, so if you do get bite you can remove it quickly and correctly. The advice I was given and still see on the CDC website is removing a tick within 24 hours greatly reduces the risk of Lyme.
posted by lepus at 12:13 PM on May 13 [6 favorites]

Permethrin works well, but if you have cats, do not let them come anywhere near clothes soaked in it - it's super toxic to them too. (We also live in tick country and just shower/check and then dispose of ticks by folding scotch tape around them. My wife calls it "laminating" and it works perfectly well, except sometimes my cat finds the bits of tape and tends to carry them around and deposit them in my bed.)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:55 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

Permethrin is toxic to cats while wet, but once it's dry you're OK.

So while there is a spray, I have just done A Day of soaking and then line-drying some hiking clothes, such that they are good for the summer (well, about half a dozen washes).
posted by wenestvedt at 1:06 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

We 100% agree about permethrin soaked clothes... As avid New York hikers, we've been rocking hiking pants and shirts with permethrin pre-soaked for the past decade, and it makes all of the difference. (Let me tell you about picking 40-50 tick nymphs off of each of us after hiking on Shelter Island, or the amazing experience after being bitten by chiggers while eating lunch in Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge...) The off-the shelf clothing is effective for a long time, it takes over 25 washes for it to be lost. You can also get your own clothes professionally treated too... The spray version works, but it won't last more than a few washes, and there is one super important note:

Liquid permethrin is VERY dangerous for cats, and they should never be exposed to it. Make sure to treat your clothes outside and keep them away until they are totally dried.

Once the ground level temperature goes above 46 degrees, it is tick season here, and these days not only do we have to worry about Lyme disease, but other tick born diseases like alpha-gal are spreading fast, and can be caught before you even get home...
posted by rambling wanderlust at 1:09 PM on May 13 [6 favorites]

Check local extension (or whatever) for what the tick season is like where you're going. I suggest this because where I am (Wisconsin) it's a REALLY BAD tick season already, so bad that you CANNOT assume that you're safe from the little bastards if you stay on trails.

(already had to evict one from my skin, ugh)
posted by humbug at 1:24 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

Just realized I was wrong about how long professionally treated clothes last these days, currently it is 70 washes or the lifetime of the clothes according to InsectShield.

Oh yeah, it apparently is already a record tick year here in New York State...
posted by rambling wanderlust at 1:26 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Check local extension (or whatever) for what the tick season is like where you're going.

For New York State Hudson Valley - what might that be?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:30 PM on May 13

Tick season is already here in NY, it began in March.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:02 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]

Agreed on any Sawyer picaridin preparations. I mostly still try to spray it on clothing, but it's safe for kids too. And actually works.
posted by atomicstone at 2:04 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]

For New York State Hudson Valley - what might that be?

Looks like it is the NYS Department of Health, though you might want to check with the specific county Department of Health and/or Cornell Cooperative Extension for the county you are visiting.
posted by plastic_animals at 2:17 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

I have a place in the Hudson Valley and co-sign everything above, except that we use Repel and permetherin. Also, the ticks are horrifying this year. We were picking them off our dog and ourselves constantly, six or seven at a go. Tick check frequently. My partner's sister discovered a live one in her house in Brooklyn almost two weeks after she'd been up there. I found one crawling across the steering wheel of our car as I was driving to Kingston. And, to add to the joy, the Spongy Moth infestation in certain parts of the Valley (Milan, in particular, but Rhinebeck and Red Hook also) is bananas this year, and the biting flies are out in force. Cornell is great, but they're not going to tell you much more than is already in this thread. All that said, enjoy!
posted by lassie at 2:52 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Lassie, I'm memailing you....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 PM on May 13

I live in Vermont and we use No Bite Me, and have found it effective for tick prevention, but also after care for mosquito bites if we forgot to apply No Bite Me ahead of time.
posted by terrapin at 5:03 AM on May 14

Response by poster: Alright, I've ordered both the permethrin and the picardin from Sawyer (I'd actually already planned on that, I'd done something similar on a camping trip a few years ago). I'm also noticing that the day I'd planned on doing more of the "outdoorsy" stuff may be rainy anyway, but at least I'm covered.

Thank you!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:36 AM on May 14

When you get in from outdoor adventures, use one of those sticky lint rollers outside your clothes. They will pick up a lot. (Tip from former preschool teacher)
posted by transient at 9:46 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

Lots of good information in this thread! As has been said before, permethrin soaked clothes, if you have access to a dryer put in everything you have on and run on hot for 20 minutes (It'll kill any ticks on your clothes) then jump in the shower and check yourself carefully. We live in tick heaven and we do this after every hike and working in the yard. Staying on the trail is no guarantee one of the little buggers isn't on a plant you merely brushed. Also, if you get a tick that has been on you for more than 24-48 hours get the course of doxycycline but also ask your physician to check you for other co-infections, especially if you continue to feel sick after the dose is complete. There are a lot of these and my husband had a nasty experience with babeosis.
posted by bluesky43 at 7:13 PM on May 14

Back in February, when the air temperature was maybe in the high 30s (in the mountainous western part of Virginia), a black-legged deer tick (smaller than an apple seed) apparently dropped out of a tree onto my neck and attached itself. For one day I thought it was a scab from a rash I had--then when I scratched it and saw tiny, tiny legs, I went promptly to the ER and had it removed. I was prescribed a 14-day dose of doxycycline and I'm very glad for that. This is the kind of tick that is responsible for Lyme. I have not noticed any issues, post-dose.

Like bluesky43, I check myself thoroughly daily, even if all I've done outside is to work in a mowed yard or flower bed. Please don't hesitate to go to the ER if a tick has attached itself to you: I personally have enough hereditary health issues already and didn't want to add Lyme to the list.
posted by apartment dweller at 9:34 PM on May 15

Note that (1) with proper tools you can almost always safely remove a tick yourself and do not need to wait for a doctor to do it, and (2) a single dose of doxycycline, easily available via telehealth, is the standard prophylaxis now. For most people, going to the ER would be overkill.
posted by metasarah at 4:11 AM on May 17

There is not a single standard prophylaxis upon being bitten: see the recommendations of the Infectious Disease Society of America, AAN/ACR/IDSA 2020 Guidelines for the Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment of Lyme Disease.

It depends on the tick, the nature of the bite, the locale (presence of Lyme disease), and the person who has been bitten. The head of that tiny black-legged deer tick was fully embedded in my neck, there was just a small barely visible black spot where the body was (which a friend saw with a magnifying glass); the weird placement on my neck meant I could feel it but not see it clearly even in a magnifying mirror), and there was swelling at the site. A dog tick is larger and easier to remove (those ticks are also rampant in this area). The deer tick can transmit Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis. And yes, I have a tick key, picardin repellent (which I wasn't wearing that day), and permethrin clothing treatment (which I also wasn't wearing that day, because, February). Lesson learned.

I emailed my gastroenterologist afterwards (as I have treatment-resistant Crohns and I do my level best to avoid antibiotics due to the risk of contracting c. diff) to see if I could take a shorter course of antibiotics and he was emphatic that I complete it as prescribed. So, great if you can do the short doxycycline treatment: I could not.
posted by apartment dweller at 8:53 PM on May 20

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