Michael Pearce

A tried-and-true way to keep ticks away

The little plastic bottle that usually sells for around $10 doesn’t help me catch more fish, call more turkeys or hike more miles in the spring, summer and early fall.

But permethrin spray keeps me largely free of ticks. That’s a huge peace of mind these days.

Some sources say as many as 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are contracted every year in America. That doesn’t include other tick-transmitted diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and others. All are serious diseases that hard to diagnosis and difficult to heal.

One woman I spoke with said she has battled Lyme disease for 18 years, and said it cost her her career as well as her physical and cognitive health. A good friend has battled it for three years, at a cost of more than $80,000 out of his own pocket. The jury is still out as to if he’s better or not.

But there’s little debate that spraying permethrin on outdoors clothing greatly helps reduce tick bites. The first year I got serious about using the chemical, I had exactly one tick on my skin over a six-month period, and that includes 17 trips to our brushy, tick-infested farm. Before, it wasn’t uncommon to remove 20 per day.

I’ve recommended the spray to dozens of people and talked to hundreds who use it regularly from California to Connecticut. Nearly all of their experiences mirror mine, though some also use regular insect repellant on exposed skin.

Still, there are some things to remember if using permethrin. It’s to be sprayed on clothing that’s allowed to dry and never to be sprayed directly on skin.

Sprayed garb, from caps to socks and boots, has to be sprayed outdoors, with plenty of time for the fabric to dry before it’s worn. I always wear surgical gloves as I apply it to clothing and urge all to read the directions.

After that, you’re usually home free while ticks and other insects are in trouble for quite some time.

Advertising says the applications last up to six or eight weeks on garments, even if washed up to six times. I treat my clothing monthly, and leave it hanging in the garage if slightly soiled. If the clothing needs to be washed, I hit it on a gentle cycle and allow it to air dry.

If I have any doubt as to the garment’s potency towards ticks, I spray it again in the morning and it’s ready to wear later that afternoon. Since most bottles cover two full sets of garments, that means I may use up to three or four bottles or permethrin per year.

That seems a pretty small price to pay for how well it’s protected me through the years.