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Natural Tick Repellents

Ticks are a huge problem this year and preventing tick bites is the first line of defense. Which are the safest and most effective repellents? Let's take a look.
natural tick repellents - essential oils
By: Courtney Key

Tick season is here and it's already proving to be more dangerous than past years. According to Pest World

"A tick(ing) time bomb is set to explode this season, in fields, forests and yards across the country, as we head into what is expected to be an extremely heavy tick season. And with ticks, come the dangers of tick-borne disease, namely Lyme disease."

Lovely, right? This year, I've found more than 10 (including one on my son's head) and that's after our yard has been sprayed with natural tick repellents. To say I'm paranoid is a bit of an understatement. You see, it's justified given that my Dad has had two serious bouts with Lyme Disease. So, I'm here to help educate readers what the best protection is, and what you should do to keep your family safe.

natural tick repellents

Photo Credit: Pixaby

What is DEET?

Google "DEET free" repellents and you will be overwhelmed with the amount of products that are marketed to buyers. There seems to be a misconception that deet is unsafe and shouldn't be used to repel ticks. Well, the EPA is saying otherwise. In 1998 and 2014 the EPA conducted a safety review of DEET concluding that:

"The normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population, including children. As always, consumers are advised to read and follow label directions in using any pesticide product, including insect repellents. Currently registered uses of DEET are also not expected to result in adverse effects for listed and non-listed endangered species, or critical habitat. As such, EPA concludes "no effect" for listed species and no adverse modification of designated critical habitat for all currently registered uses of DEET."

I am the first to admit that I've avoided products with DEET because I heard chatter about the potential dangers of DEET, but after reading this report I'm comfortable using repellents with DEET. The CDC has an article worth reading - I've even printed & hung it on my fridge. Here are the highlights:

"Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or 2-undecanone. Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old. Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old."

If you'd like to research your options, the EPA has a wonderful "find the right repellent" tool.

Natural Tick Repellents

Still feeling unsure about DEET? The EPA and CDC have labeled several natural tick repellent ingredients that are safe. The important thing to note is that the ingredients have been studied for their safety, but not their effectiveness. The natural tick repellents include:

  • 2-undecanone
  • Garlic Oil
  • Mixed Essential Oils
  • Nootkatone
  • Fungus

The caveat here is that repellents made from all natural ingredients do not require EPA registration. So while they are safe, the effectiveness of them has not been measured. Our family has our yard sprayed with a peppermint essential oil, and after realizing that the effectiveness is unknown, I'm considering other options.

natural tick repellents

Photo Credit: Pixaby

Safety Tips

At the end of the day, no protection is 100% so it's important to incorporate safety measures into your daily routine.

  • Daily checks (I check my son 2-3 times a day because we are always outside. Ticks like to climb on his head so I always comb through his hair carefully)
  • Shower after coming inside
  • Change clothes after playing outside - wash clothes and put on a new outfit (check dirty clothes for ticks)
  • Apply natural tick repellents or a DEET-based one

I hope this article has been more helpful than worrisome. If you or your child has been bitten by a tick it's best to call a doctor and they can help you take the appropriate next steps.

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