How to Prevent Lyme Disease and Related Tick Borne Infections 

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Strategies to Prevent Lyme & Tick Borne Infections

Lyme disease and tick borne infections are spread through tick bites. The best way to prevent Lyme disease and related infections is to stop ticks from attaching to you. Another strategy is to quickly remove attached ticks before they spread infection. Here are some specific actions you can take to prevent Lyme and related infections.

Marty Ross MD Discusses Lyme Disease Prevention

 
 
 
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Actions While Outdoors Where Ticks Live

ONE - Use A Good Tick Repellent On Your Skin

Before going into tick habitats, spray your skin with a tick repellent. Ticks are repelled by certain chemicals which limit their chances of getting on your skin or biting you. Common repellants include

  • picaridin,
  • DEET, and
  • essential oils.

Of these, picaridin and DEET work best because they last longer.

Research shows essential oils only work up to 20 minutes after application. Picaridin 20% can last 12 to 14 hours depending on whether a spray or lotion is used. The length of effect of DEET depends on the concentration. DEET 30% can last for 8 hours - while DEET 98% in Backwoods OFF can last for 10 hours.

DEET vs Picaridin

I prefer Picaridin vs DEET. Both are equally effective and recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But DEET leaves an oily layer on the skin and has potential neurotoxic effects that stop me from recommending this for people living with Lyme or who have had Lyme in the past. To be fair, the chances of neurotoxicity occurring from DEET are extremely small. However, I do not think a very small risk is worth it given how well picaridin works without any health risk.

You can use the EPA search tool to find approved tick repellents. Another option is to use an odorless picaridin 20% cream or spray product I carry at Marty Ross MD Supplements made by Proven Tick Repellent.

TWO - Spray Your Clothing with Permethrin

One other strategy is to spray your clothing, tent or camping equipment with permethrin and let it dry. Once dry, permethrin will remain effective for 6 weeks or 6 washes. Permethrin works on ticks two ways. First it is an irritant to ticks, once on permethrin coated fabric, ticks get "hot feet" and jump off. But if ticks remain on the fabric too long, the permethrin will actually kill them.

THREE - Wear Light Colored Clothing Covering Your Skin

Clothing provides a barrier to keep ticks from finding skin to bite. A strategy that can help includes wearing long pants tucked into your socks, shirts tucked in at your waist, and long sleeves. If you wear white or light colored clothing it may make it easier to spot ticks on your clothing - so you can brush them off before they reach bare skin.

FOUR - Perform Regular Tick Checks

While you are outdoors, perform regular cursory tick checks of your skin and clothing. If you find a tick, brush it off before it can bite you.

Actions Right After Coming Indoors

Once you are inside take actions to remove any ticks that might be on your clothing or attached to your body. You could remove your clothes and place them in a hot drier. The drier can blow any attached ticks off and the heat can kill them. With your clothes off, you will have an easier time seeing any ticks on your skin. Some suggest taking a shower. The idea behind this action is while naked showering, you will have an easier time seeing the ticks. The shower water itself does not kill a tick. There is also a potential that showering can dislodge ticks from your skin.

Safely Remove An Attached Tick

If you find a tick attacked, remove it safely. The best way to remove a tick is to grab the tick at the head using tweezers. Pull up slowly and carefully. This method limits the chances that an attached tick will vomit Lyme and related germs into the tick bite area. Other methods, like burning a tick off, increase the chances of germ transmission from an infected tick.

Decrease Ticks on Your Property

You can work to limit infected ticks on your property. One strategy is to place cotton or wool treated with permethrin in toilet paper cardboard tubes throughout your property. Rodents and varmints that carry ticks will pick up the cotton or wool and bring it back to their beds. Ticks exposed to the permethrin soaked cotton or wool will die.

Disclaimer

The ideas and recommendations on this website and in this article are for informational purposes only. For more information about this, see the sitewide Terms & Conditions.

References

View Citations

  1. Eisen L. Personal protection measures to prevent tick bites in the United States: Knowledge gaps, challenges, and opportunities [published online ahead of print, 2022 Mar 26]. Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2022;13(4):101944. doi:10.1016/j.ttbdis.2022.101944 (View)
  2. Fradin MS, Day JF. Comparative efficacy of insect repellents against mosquito bites. N Engl J Med. 2002;347(1):13-18. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa011699 (View)
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About the Author

Marty Ross, MD is a passionate Lyme disease educator and clinical expert. He helps Lyme sufferers and their physicians see what really works based on his review of the science and extensive real-world experience. Dr. Ross is licensed to practice medicine in Washington State (License: MD00033296) where he has treated thousands of Lyme disease patients in his Seattle practice. 

Marty Ross, MD is a graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine and Georgetown University Family Medicine Residency. He is a member of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) and The Institute for Functional Medicine.

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