Ticks, Permethrin, and Deet, Oh My!

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that one of the most frequently cited “worst things” about forestry is the increasing tick population in many parts of the country. You MUST READ the section on Permethrin below if you are struggling to keep ticks at bay.

PERMETHRIN- This pesticide has been used in agricultural and residential applications for 3 decades, and is being used now as a clothing treatment. While you can purchase spray bottles in outdoor stores that you simply spray on your clothing, for field professionals it makes much more sense to do a full soak treatment yourself. You can treat many more clothes, it’ll last longer, and it’ll be far cheaper, as follows:

1)    Purchase permethrin from your local farm supply store. You can get quarts of 37% solution for about 30 bucks, or gallons for less than $100. This will give you 72 gallons of solution, which will last you for years.

2)    Mix one gallon of water plus 2 ounces of 37% Permethrin to get a 0.5% solution.

3)    Put 2-3 gallons of the solution into a 5 gallon bucket. Don’t let cats anywhere near it.

4)    Throw in your vest, pants, socks, shirts, and anything else you can fit in there. Let your clothing soak for a couple hours.

5)    Wring out clothes- just dry enough so they aren’t dripping a ton- and hang them outside to dry on a clothesline.

6)    Put a lid on the bucket and save it for next time.

This treatment should last through 6 weeks and 6 washings.

A NOTE ABOUT DEET- All we will say here is if you have any concerns about the health effects of DEET, you should look at the primary research- Google is your friend. There is pretty much zero peer-reviewed scientific research that proves any long-term negative health effects of using DEET in concentrations of 30% or less. Short-term effects can include skin irritation and other maladies- we won’t argue that individual users can experience various discomforts. You could suffer from insomnia, nausea, impaired cognitive function, etc etc etc, but you could prevent rocky mountain spotted fever, lyme disease, or one of the myriad of *new* tick-related threats.

The demonization of DEET is similar to that of Thimerosal (the vaccine debate). There were two very poor studies that were done a couple decades ago that became conventional wisdom, and unless you are a pregnant, no one has been able to prove any long term health risk- and this pesticide has been around for 70 years. One in 100 million users will get seizures from DEET. Less than one in a million of you will die from lightning this year.

In high-risk states like Vermont, one in 1,000 RESIDENTS will get Lyme disease. You can imagine what the rate of incidence looks like for foresters and others who spend most of their time in the woods. Some of us have open prescriptions for doxycycline, which is the most common antibiotic treatment. Others have convinced veterinary friends to administer them lyme vaccine. Hopefully this will be FDA-approved soon.

 

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