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The chemical known as “DEET” is an ingredient in numerous insect repellent products. DEET is well known for its effectiveness at repelling mosquitoes. While applying mosquito repellent to skin is a must considering the abundance of disease-carrying mosquitoes in urban and residential areas of the US, it is also important for people to protect themselves from tick bites. This is especially true in the northeast where tens of thousands of individuals contract tick-borne diseases each year. In fact, there does not yet exist any effective method of reducing tick populations in areas inhabited by humans, and recent scientific surveys find the disease-carrying ticks are becoming more prevalent in the northeast. As the number of infected ticks continue to grow each year, so does the number of human tick-borne disease cases. Luckily, DEET-containing insect repellents also work to protect humans from tick bites, but there exists some controversy concerning just how effective DEET is as a tick-bite prevention method.

Several studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency have found that DEET repellents can repel ticks for a period of two to twelve hours, depending on the amount of DEET contained within repellent products. However, researchers at the University of Rhode Island state that while repellents are essential for preventing tick bites, DEET repellents are not sufficient on their own to protect against tick bites, as DEET does not provide lasting protection, and does not protect certain areas of the body where ticks are likely to become embedded within the skin, such as the scalp; instead, researchers at the University claim that the chemical known as “permethrin” kills ticks on contact. The researchers further stated that wearing permethrin-treated clothing in addition to applying DEET repellents to skin is the most optimal way to avoid tick bites. Most researchers agree that DEET repellent is the most effective form of tick bite protection. Studies conducted by both Canadian and American researchers found that repellents containing more than 30 percent DEET is necessary for providing lasting protection from tick bites.

Do you purchase insect repellents containing DEET in order to protect against tick bites?