Spray Your Clothes, Field Check For Ticks

It’s Spray Your Clothes Day (photo by Kate St. John)

27 March 2023

The worst part of Lyme disease season has just begun so let’s learn how to avoid it.

From spring through early summer the tiny nymphs of black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) quest for blood meals from animals and humans. Only the size of poppy seeds, the nymphs are really hard to see. If an infected tick bites you, it will give you Lyme disease bacteria.

Nymphs are only the size of a poppy seed! (image from Wikimedia Commons)

To prevent the debilitating disease, don’t let ticks get on your skin.

  1. Choose outdoor clothing that prevents ticks from reaching your skin:
    • Light colored clothes: So you can see ticks easily.
    • Long pants.
    • Long sleeved shirt with collar + tuck in your shirt: Collar traps ticks before they walk up your neck.
    • Socks: When you bushwhack or garden, tuck pant bottoms into socks.
  2. Once a year (i.e. now!) Spray your outdoor clothing with Permethrin. I know from personal experience and the experts agree that Permethrin works much better than DEET. Spray protection lasts 4-6 washings. Pre-treated clothes can last 70 washings. READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS.
  3. Avoid brushing against vegetation. Avoid bushwhacking. Bush honeysuckle and Japanese barberry are tick magnets.
  4. If vegetation brushes you, field check your clothing for ticks when you reach a clearing. The sooner you get ticks off your clothes the better.
  5. Do a daily tick check.  Yes, daily!  You might have missed one yesterday that’s still on you. Check these spots.
How to do a tick check (image from PA Dept of Health & CDC.gov)

If you find a tick remove it correctly (here’s how) and save it for testing.  Send it here and they’ll tell you if it carries Lyme disease.

Black-legged ticks are active year round when the temperature is above freezing. If you wear protective clothing — yes, even in hot summer — you’ll save yourself a world of trouble. See more tips here.

p.s. There are lots of ways to outsmart ticks. Did you know zip pants trap ticks under the zip placket?

p.s. Be careful with Permethrin. READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS. To avoid fumes and protect kids and pets, spray your clothes outdoors on a windless day and wear rubber gloves. Keep Permethrin away from the cat (see label).

p.p.s. As Mary Jo Berman points out in the comments, I should have added this last tip on how to kill ticks on your clothing. After you come indoors, put your outdoor clothes in the dryer on high for 10 minutes BEFORE you wash them. Really. It kills ticks.

After hiking/gardening, dry your outdoor clothes for 10 mins in a hot dryer (photo by Kate St. John)

(photos by Kate St. John.  tick chart from the Center for Disease Control via Wikimedia Commons.  Click on the chart to see the original)

3 thoughts on “Spray Your Clothes, Field Check For Ticks

  1. Excellent write-up. Those d*mn ticks are a constant danger. One other tip, dry clothes on high for 20 minutes before washing. The heat will kill the little buggers.

    Although I love seeing deer in my yard, the reality is they are carriers of one of the most insidious diseases.

    1. Mary Jo, Thanks for reminding me. I forgot to put it up this morning but I’ve added it now. By the way, the advice from tickencounter.org says “hot dryer for 10 minutes.”
      p.s. The deer carry the ticks on their bodies but only the ticks, and the mice, chipmunks and shrews they feed on, carry Lyme disease.

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