Preventing Tick and Mosquito Bites

Preventing ticks and mosquitoes from biting you and your children is important this time of year. Not only are the bites itchy, they can also transmit illnesses and viruses that are harmful to your health. 

In Northwest Arkansas, ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Erhlichiosis and Tularemia. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile Virus, St. Louis Equine Encephalitis and there is a potential for ZIKA. Arkansas has the kind of mosquitoes that carry Zika virus, but there have been NO reported cases in Arkansas.

There are several things you can do to deter ticks and mosquitos when you are enjoying the outdoors. 

  1. Use bug spray when going in natural areas, tall grass or wooded areas. 

    First is DEET (NN-Diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET is applied directly to your skin but should not be used under clothing or on damaged skin.
    About DEET: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends product of 10-30% for children over the age of 2 months. Ten percent DEET provides protection for about 2 hours, and 30% protects for about 5 hours. For Adults there are higher concentrations of DEET at 40%-100%. They are not more effective but they last 8-12 hours.
    Alternative: For those few who can’t use DEET, or choose not to use DEET, there is an alternative. Picaridin has become available in the U.S. in concentrations of 5% to10%.

  2. Treat your clothes with repellant if you plan to work or visit natural areas often in the summer. 

    My second tip is great for people who work or play often outdoors in the summer is to treat your clothing with permethrin. You may have seen clothing that is treated to repel bugs, but did you know you can treat your own clothing?
    About Permethrin: Permethrin is approved for use in people over the age of two months. Permethrin was developed from the chrysanthemum plant. It works by disrupting the function of the neurons of ticks and insects. Warning: Please be aware, a high dose of permethrin is toxic to cats.
    Where to buy: Sawyer makes a 0.5% spray solution you spray on your clothes and allow to dry, it is good for up to 6 washings. Or you can mix your own from Permethrin 10% from the local farmers CO-OP.
    How to Treat Your Clothing with Permethrin: Put 6.5 ounces of Permethrin 10% in with enough water to make 1 gallon. Soak clothing or any outdoor gear and allow to line dry. Once dry they are odor free. These items will then be good for 20+ washings. Watch our how to video

  3. Treat your yard.
    My third tip for preventing tick and mosquito bites is treating your yard with a product called ThermaCELL.
    About ThermaCell: ThermaCell uses a butane cartridge and a repellent called allethrin, which is a synthetic form of a natural insecticide found in chrysanthemums. The combination is odor free and repels up to 98% of mosquitoes, black flies, no-see-ums and sand flies in an area up to 15 ft. by 15 ft.


All of these products are chemicals that should be used with extreme caution. Always follow the directions of the product carefully and ask your physician if you have any concerns or unusual reactions. 

I hope these tips can help you enjoy the outdoors this summer. Have a great summer!

Thomas Harris, MDThomas E. Harris, MD
Fellow Academy of Wilderness Medicine
MediServe Walk-In Clinic, a MANA Clinic