When moving through tick country (basically anywhere that there are Deer, tuck your trouser bottoms into your boots like a soldier, tuck you shirt in, roll the sleeves down and generally leave less skin exposed to them than there might be if you did nothing.

Ticks are resilient, you can’t wash them off your skin, they hold on really well and even washing clothing is not enough to get rid of them (although putting your clothing into a hot tumble dryer seems to kills them)

The only effective chemical measure that I know of is Permethrin.  As I understand it (I might be wrong) It was developed by the US Military to reduce non combat casualties in Jungle conditions.  Too many soldiers were being taken out of action by tick borne illnesses and infections caused by bites that something needed to be done and so they developed Permethrin.

Unlike Deet, Permethrin kill´s insects, it does not just deter them, it kills them.

While in the Jungle on expeditions, I spray my hammock with it and if anything that flies gets inside the netting like a mosquito, they sort of spin round a few times and then drop out of the air.

The same goes for ticks, as they crawl onto your clothing that you have sprayed, they will just die.

There are no natural deterrents that actually work, not that I have encountered anyway and I have tried a lot of them, the only thing that is effective is Permethrin.

Permethrin in it´s concentrated form is toxic, it is not a pleasant chemical but Lymes Disease is no fun either, as long as it is watered down it has been deemed safe for contact with skin.

For this reason, it is better to buy it pre-prepared for this use but in some countries it is not available for use on people so you may have to source it from a farmers supply shop (they use it on livestock) and mix it with water yourself.  How much water you use depends on the concentration that you have so I will leave it to you to determine this and not give the amounts here, it will do you good to read up on it anyway.

Shawn James over on MySelfReliance.com does a decent guide on how to mix it and treat clothing, check it out.

The tick on the left is a fresh one, she has not fed yet, the one of the right has been there for quite a while and is inflated with blood.

If you find a tick attached to you, remove it with tweezers by gently grabbing the head and giving it a twist and pull, making sure that you get it all out in one piece.  Monitor the area for signs of a bullseye style rash, if you discover one or more of these go to a doctor straight away and make certain that they understand that you were bitten by a tick.  Lymes disease is no joke.

Most (every) GP that I have ever spoken to about ticks in my extensive experience of being bitten all over the world, has been blissfully unaware of the risk as most GP´s have no experience of being outside and getting bitten by ticks.  They deal with coughs and colds, stress and flu most of the time so their natural reaction when you mention ticks is that it is very rare and unlikely that you have encountered one that carries Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lymes Disease.

Press the GP into doing the test, the test is not 100% reliable but it is the best we have at the moment.  A stout dose of Doxycycline is usually enough to handle Lymes before it become a problem but if left untreated it can be very difficult to cure.

Get the ticks off within 24 hours and you should be OK.  After about 24 hours, the two way flow of bacteria and pathogens from the tick begins and it´s hypodermic needle for a mouth will start injecting it´s body fluids into your bloodstream.

It is therefore vital that you make time to check yourself for ticks every day.  It is always easier to have somebody else check you as they tend to attach themselves to hard to reach places, armpits, groin and scalp are all popular places but they can be anywhere.

As with most things in life, Prevention is Better than the Cure, cover yourself up when walking through tall grass areas and inspect the ground before sitting down, use some common sense and stick to your routine of daily checks and you should be fine.  If you do find any ticks, extract them and throw them in the fire.

Pssst….While you are here, check out some of the other tips in the Bushcraft and Survival Pro Tips Series, it wont hurt, i promise!

I cover this and hundreds of other titbits of information like this on my larger, more comprehensive training programs.

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2 Comments

  1. Tom Ferguson

    Hi Mat,

    I really like your blog.

    Just to say, I have caught Lyme disease twice, once in London and once in Canada (2 different strains). On both occasions there is no way the ticks were attached for 24 hours. The second time the tickets on my elbow and I would have noticed it.

    I say this not as a criticism, but only to point out that not everything that is said about Lyme disease is accurate.

    All the best

    Tom

    • matt fletcher

      Hi Tom and thanks for the feedback. Yes you are right, I think it is more a rule of thumbs about the 24 hour thing. I was told that by a Doctor at the Hospital for Tropical Disease in London but there is a lot of guess work involved and Tick borne illnesses are under examined and under researched.

      Can I ask how you removed the Ticks? I ask as one method is the coat them in some sort of petrolium jelly like Vaseline which suffocates them and does kill them however when they die this way, they regurgitate their insides out of their mouth and straight into you. Again, my source for that was the Hospital for Tropical Disease in London. I wonder if the removal method may have attributed to your infection?

      If not, thanks for adding to the discussion anyway, it’s great to hear new information and new views on this stuff.

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