John Rasweiler, a physiologist and member of Suffolk County’s Tick Advisory Committee, is sharing a National Public Radio (NPR) report by Allison Aubrey advising the use of permethrin on clothing because it incapacitates ticks, making them unable to bite humans.Mr. Rasweiler said he chose to share the NPR story to spread information he said needs to be “much more widely disseminated” to help diminish the incidence of tick-borne diseases.
Unlike repellents that can be sprayed on skin, permethrin can only be applied to clothing, Mr. Rasweiler said. He noted that few experts dealing with tick control recommend the use of both a repellent like DEET and a tickicide such as permethrin. He and Ilia Rochlin of Suffolk County’s Vector Control unit have observed that using DEET alone doesn’t keep ticks from “scampering blissfully” up their legs.
Mr. Rasweiler said he treats his outdoor clothes and socks and shoes with Sawyer Permethrin that’s available from REI and Amazon. Articles of clothing should be dried overnight after being treated and should not be dried in the sun since permethrin breaks down under UV light.
Treated clothing can retain its effective levels through five to six washings, Mr. Rasweiler said. But he advised using a gentle wash cycle since the agitation from washers and dryers shakes the permethrin free from fabrics.
The NPR story recounts several tests that conclude that spraying clothing with permethrin is an effective way to kill ticks.
Permethrin is regularly re-evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency and has determined that clothing treated with permethrin “is unlikely to pose any significant immediate or long-term hazard to people wearing the clothing.”
The National Pesticide Information Center said people who inadvertently get the spray on their skin may experience temporary tingling, redness or irritation, but no serious symptoms.