In the past 20 years, people in the Northeastern United States have grown increasingly weary of tick bites due to their potential to communicate devastating diseases like Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Now, having spread to much of the US and now Europe, tick bites are something to be highly conscious of when outdoors.
Many people have had encounters with ticks when venturing outside. You don’t have to walk deep into the woods to come in contact with ticks. But how can you stay safe?
Prevention is the best way to avoid the devastating effects of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Powassan encephalitis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis, just to name a few, that can be transmitted by tick bites.
There are many different types of ticks: the blacklegged tick, or deer tick, is notorious for spreading Lyme disease and its co-infections. However, the risk of developing these infections depends on several factors, including type of tick and how long it was attached to the skin.
Natural Tick Repellents
Many fragrances that smell wonderful to humans are highly repellent to ticks. Lavender, peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, cedar, rose geranium and citrus have all been shown to keep ticks away. So, buy soaps and shampoos that are naturally odorous with these ingredients. Then, try essential oils and make bug repellent. Start with a carrier oil like sweet almond oil or olive oil, and add 12 drops of essential oil per fluid ounce to create a natural repellent that you can spray or rub into your skin. Here are some natural alternatives to Permethrin (insecticide) and DEET (repellent):
- Cedar Oil Spray is a non-toxic, natural tick and insect repellent. It can be sprayed directly on clothing and skin. It is safe for use on humans and pets. Not only does cedar oil repel ticks and other irritating insects, but it kills them. Cedar oil spray can be purchased online and at most pet stores and big-box retailers.
- Eucalyptus Oil is known as an effective tick repellent and insecticide. Just combine 4 ounces of purified or distilled water to a small spray bottle along with 20 drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Shake before using and spray on skin, pant cuffs, and shoes. Safe for use on dogs (eucalyptus oil must be diluted with the water before application on dogs).
- Neem Oil is is used as a natural remedy to repel and remove ticks. To use, add several drops to the palm of your hand and rub on exposed skin. It can also be diluted and mixed with almond or other light carrier oil. When diluted, it’s safe for dogs. To remove a tick, apply a drop or two of neem oil directly on the tick and it will extract itself quickly.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar to the rescue once again! This wonderful natural remedy also helps to remove and kill ticks. The following solution can be sprayed on clothing and exposed skin, even lawn furniture. Combine the following in a spray bottle:
- 2 cups of water
- 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of organic neem oil
- Aromatherapy Essential Oils not only smell great, but they are also natural tick repellents. Ticks hate the smell of lemon, orange, cinnamon, lavender, peppermint, and rose geranium. Any of these or a combination can be used in DIY sprays or added to almond oil and rubbed on exposed skin.
- Eat Garlic! We all know that garlic has excellent health benefits, and now we can add one more to the list. Regular consumption of garlic* or garlic capsules reduces the risk of tick bites, and tick-borne disease. The garlic causes the body to excrete a scent that ticks hate.
Try this homemade Tick and Insect Repellent. Just mix and apply to exposed skin before heading outdoors:
- 9 drops citronella essential oil
- 6 drops Tea Tree essential oil
- 6 drops Peppermint essential oils
- 1 tablespoon almond oil or jojoba oil
We recommend using certified organic essential oils in any of the above mixtures.
- It is not recommended to feed garlic to pets — please talk to your veterinarian.
- Essential oils are not recommended for use on cats. Please consult with your veterinarian about effective flea and tick control for cats.
- Always dilute solutions before applying to your dog.
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Food-grade Diatomaceous earth (DE) can be found at a farm or hardware store. Apply it in the areas that you’d like to rid of ticks — around the house, near your dog house, etc. It’s a white powder made from the fossilized remains of little aquatic organisms called diatoms, and while it’s completely safe for humans and animals to ingest, it’s deadly for bugs. It damages their exoskeleton and causes them to die of dehydration. Since DE isn’t a poison, ticks can’t grow immune to it, so it remains effective year after year.
Warning: Diatomaceous earth will kill both bad bugs and good bugs, so it’s best to limit its use to areas with known pest problems.
Annie Otzen / Getty Images
Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that live in the soil and kill problem bugs like ticks, ants, termites, grubs and other garden pests. They cause no harm to humans, pets, earthworms or beneficial bugs, like ladybugs, so they’re a great form of chemical-free pest control, and they’re readily available online. Just choose the right nematode for the job (S. Feltiae is the one that’ll take care of ticks), and apply it to your yard.
Metarhizium brunneum or Metarhizium anisopliae Fungus
These species of fungi grow naturally in soil and can repel or kill ticks. They’re commercially available for application on lawns and can be found under the name Met52.
A study of these fungi suggested that they may provide an alternative approach from other insecticides for controlling tick populations. Another studyTrusted Source found that application of Met52 is not harmful to populations of non-target bug species.
The active ingredient for this repellent is found in essential oils of some species of cedar tree, herbs, or fruits. It’s currently not available commercially.
The same 2012 study comparing Ecosmart and other products found that nootkatone applied to clothing was more effective after seven days than other commercial brands that were tested.
Nootkatone can also be applied to lawns in order to repel ticks, but researchers are studying how to optimize formulations to be longer lasting and less toxic to plants.
Nootkatone is a natural organic compound and is the most important and expensive aromatic of grapefruit. It is a sesquiterpene and a ketone. Nootkatone was previously thought to be one of the main chemical components of the smell and flavour of grapefruits. In high purity, it is usually found as colorless crystals.
In conclusion, tick bites are a serious threat but you do not have to lock you and your family indoors or douse yourselves in chemicals. These natural solutions can be a good way to prevent them.