MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a question that comes to our inbox each summer. This year, Bill from Willmar and Linda from Brooklyn Park asked: Can humans wear tick collars?

That might not be an option up everyone’s alley, but there are alternatives.

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“We do have materials that people can spray on their clothing that effectively turns their pants and jackets and camping equipment into a flea and tick collar,” says Mike McLean, a spokesman with the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District.

It’s called permethrin. It can come as a spray or on clothes that have been treated with it. It should not be sprayed directly on a person’s skin.

Permethrin is a type of insecticide that derived from a chrysanthemum. According to McLean, it kills mosquitos, ticks, gnats and chiggers within minutes of coming into contact with them.

It differs from DEET.

“DEET is just a repellant,” says McLean. “It confuses the insects, but doesn’t kill them.”

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Permethrin was registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1979. Every few years, the EPA evaluates permethrin. In its most recent 2009 risk assessment, the EPA found “it’s unlikely to pose any significant immediate or long-term hazard to people wearing the clothing.”

One problem with permethrin is that cats metabolize it differently. According to Dr. Charlotte Means, Director of Toxicology with the ASPCA, exposure to permethrin can cause muscle tremors and seizures in some cats.

Dr. Means says concentrations of five percent or more are especially harmful to cats, but most commercially available products have a concentration of less than one percent. She recommends not spraying permethrin around cats, and change permethrin-treated clothes upon arriving home.

“As we always say, the dose makes the poison,” she says.

McLean advises anyone who uses permethrin to read the label closely.

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“In this case, it’s important to read the fine print,” he says. “And, it is fine print.”

Heather Brown