Treated Clothing Kills Ticks that Spread Lyme Disease


Lyme disease can cause a range of symptoms, including a form of arthritis referred to as Lyme arthritis. Symptoms of Lyme arthritis usually begin months after a tick bite. The peak season for getting Lyme disease is May through August, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the highest number of cases by far are reported in June and July, according to CDC data from 2001-2017.

You can protect yourself from bites by several species of ticks that cause Lyme disease and related conditions by wearing clothes treated with the insecticide permethrin, according to a study from CDC researchers published in the Journal of Medical Entomology. Permethrin is a compound derived from chrysanthemums. Earlier research by the CDC found that permethrin-treated garments kill Ixodes scapularis (known as the deer tick, black-legged tick, or bear tick), which spreads Lyme disease.

In the latest study, a CDC team purchased various permethrin-treated garments (including a shirt, pants, and socks) from a maker of insect-repellent clothes and tested them against the black-legged tick and two others, the lone star tick and the American dog tick. They found that exposing the ticks to the garments for as little as one or two minutes caused most of the bugs to become sluggish and unable to bite within an hour; an exposure of five minutes was fatal for all the ticks tested. By comparison, placing ticks on an untreated cotton tee shirt had no effect.

Permethrin-treated garments may be worth the investment, though spraying an insect repellent containing the compound on clothes is effective, too. If you do spray, always follow label instructions and take steps to avoid exposure. If any exposures occur, be sure to follow the first aid instructions on the product label carefully. Whichever method you choose, checking your skin for ticks after venturing outdoors is still essential.