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article imageTreating clothing with Permethrin protects against tick bites

By Karen Graham     May 28, 2018 in Health
Insecticide-treated clothes marketed to prevent tick bites work and may help prevent tick-borne diseases, a study conducted by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed.
In experiments, Lars Eisen, from CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, and colleagues found that clothing treated with the insecticide permethrin have toxic effects on three species of ticks that spread disease-causing pathogens.
The results of the study were published May 24 in the Entomological Society of America's Journal of Medical Entomology.
In a report published by the CDC earlier this month, it was reported the number of tick-borne diseases more than doubled in the last 13 years and account for over 60 percent of all illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites. Tick bites can transmit bacteria, viruses, and parasites to humans.
Besides Lyme Disease, other illnesses transmitted by ticks include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Colorado tick fever, Q fever, and Powassan encephalitis.
And while previous studies by the CDC have focused on permethrin's effects on the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), the researchers found the insecticide had similar effects on both the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) and the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
Manufactured permethrin-treated clothing
The researchers used ten different types of permethrin-treated clothing purchased directly from Insect Shield in this study. The garments included shirts, pants and socks. All pieces of clothing were in pristine condition (not washed or worn) when used in the bioassays. The non-treated control textile was always a 100% cotton T-shirt.
Amblyomma americanum (Lone Star tick)
Amblyomma americanum (Lone Star tick)
CDC - Division of Vector Borne Infectious Diseases
"All tested tick species and life stages experienced irritation -- the 'hot-foot' effect -- after coming into contact with permethrin-treated clothing," says Lars Eisen, Ph.D., research entomologist at the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases and senior author on the study, reports Science Daily.
"This caused the ticks to drop off from a vertically oriented treated textile designed to mimic a pant leg or the arm of a shirt. We also found that sustained contact with permethrin-treated clothing -- up to 5 minutes -- resulted in loss of normal movement for all examined tick species and life stages, leaving them unable to bite."
The CDC says that ongoing research will give more information as to just how long various permethrin treatments last over time, wash cycles, and wearing conditions, "Ultimately, we'd like to be able to provide more specific guidance about the use of permethrin-treated clothing, including what types of clothing provide the best protection. Additional research in this area can improve public health recommendations," Eisen says.
Dermacentor variabilis tick  the American dog tick.
Dermacentor variabilis tick, the American dog tick.
Jerry Kirkhart from Los Osos, Calif.
There are other ways to prevent tick bites
For those consumers who may not be able to afford permethrin-treated clothing, there are insect sprays that are acceptable for use in preventing tick bites. The CDC recommends using one that contains at least 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
Keep in mind that you must not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old or use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
Consumers can also purchase products containing 0.5% permethrin. These products can usually be bought for under $10.00 for a pump-spray 12-ounce bottle. The spray is also effective against mosquitoes and lasts up to 6 weeks (or 6 washings). These sprays can also be used to treat boots and camping gear.
But a word of caution is needed - Permethrin won’t hurt humans or dogs but it is harmful to bees, fish, and aquatic insects – do not spray clothing near flowers or water sources. Do not allow cats near permethrin-treated clothing until it has fully dried.
More about Permethrin, Ticks, CDC, treated clothing, tickborne disease