How to Enjoy a Tick-Free Summer

People are outdoors enjoying the great weather - and so are ticks.

Doctors have already treated patients with tick borne illnesses this season. Experts say the best line of defense are repellents, but many are reluctant to use chemicals. There are natural ways to fend off ticks, but do they work?

Larry "The Tick Guy" Dapsis is an entomologist and deer tick program coordinator at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension in Barnstable. He was bitten once during his first month on the job. Six years later, he has not been bitten again. He said it's thanks to permethrin, a synthetic pesticide used to treat footwear and clothing.

“If a tick is exposed to permethrin for 60 seconds, that tick will be dead in nine minutes,” said Dapsis. Despite its strength, he said research shows it is safe.

The best repellents to apply to the skin are those with DEET, according to doctors and the Academy of Pediatrics. Doctors told NBC Boston the concentration should be no more than 10-percent in small children.

For those concerned about chemical exposure, there are natural options made from the essential oils of certain plants and herbs. They need to be applied more often than DEET. The effectiveness is varied and not always proven.

"The Tick Guy" fights misinformation by giving dozens of seminars each year. He likened his efforts to hand to hand combat.

"This is not a white flag of surrender in the war against ticks," he said. "I have declared war on these things."

Eighty-five percent of all tick borne diseases occur in the summer when the ticks are tiny. They are so small that they go undetected.

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