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Good Question: Why Isn’t There Tick Spray For Humans?

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We’ve had to put up with plenty of heat, but also plenty of pests this summer.

“I’ve had about 30 wood ticks on me this summer,” said Joanna Miron of Center City.

Thirty ticks compared to almost none for Miron’s dogs — Axel, Shadow, Thor and Jethro. All of them have Front Line on them to keep the ticks away. So why can’t she use it? That’s what prompted this Good Question.: If we have tick spray for dogs, why don’t we have it for humans?

Mike McLean of the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District said there’s a good answer.

“Ticks have a different metabolism,” he said. “They aren’t really even an insect. They have 8 legs, so they are in that arachnid group.”

McLean said the spray you use for mosquitoes, like Deep Woods Off!, contains DEET. It won’t kill mosquitoes, it just keeps them away.

“Mosquitoes come out in mass. The spray confuses them and it’s good for a couple hours,” McLean said. “But ticks are on their own. They are more deliberate and much slower.”

And DEET won’t keep ticks off your skin. It does, however, confuse them so they spend more time crawling on your body than biting into it.

McLean said tick repellents for pets are more like insecticides. They contain a chemical called permethrin. And because it’s designed to kill pests rather than repel them, you don’t want it on you.

“Even though this insecticide isn’t necessarily bad for mammals, you want to avoid putting it on your skin,” McLean said.

That’s why you spray tick repellent, like Repel, on your clothes. One spray on your shirt and pants is strong enough to last through a couple loads of laundry, and tough enough to take out a tick.

McLean said that now is the time of year when concerns grow over West Nile and Lyme Disease. He advises using a mosquito repellent on your skin and a tick repellent on your clothes, if you plan on venturing into the woods the next couple months.

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