‘Tis the season for ticks and conversations about ticks, and hosting year-round, weekly Lyme disease awareness events gives me an opportunity to have many interesting conversations.

With the projected elevated levels of tick infestation that we are told to prepare for, doing nothing in the way of prevention is not really an effective option. Many times, I hear, “my husband is a tick magnet,” which, upon further questioning, equates to they do not use repellent or any preventative practices, or we discover that people are using repellents incorrectly.

That’s right. It is possible to use repellents incorrectly!

Why is it so important to get it right?

Ticks go through four life stages: Egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. After hatching from the eggs, ticks must eat blood at every stage to survive. Ticks that require this many hosts can take up to three years to complete their full life cycle, and most will die because they don’t find a host for their next feeding.

So how do ticks find their hosts? By detecting an animal’s breath and body odors, or by sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations.

No matter your preference for repellent, you must apply at recommended intervals and to all exposed skin areas. I would even take it a step further and apply to areas that we know ticks like to go to (armpits, groin area, scalp line and behind the knees).

Applying repellent as directed is one step in the battle against tick encounters. The other is applying it to the areas it’s meant for. Repellent is meant to bond with your skin and form a barrier. Repellent containing Deet, when applied to certain fabrics (plastic, rayon, nylon), can eat the fabric. I was told recently of how a woman applied repellent containing Deet behind her ears and she got it on the plastic of her sunglasses—and it ate the plastic!

Permethrin was designed to be applied to your outer clothing and outer gear (not your skin). It is a toxic nerve agent that kills ticks on contact. Permethrin, not to be confused with Pyrethrin (a chemical used in pest control management for lawns), binds with the fabric and forms a bond that only degrades in the wash after 7-10 washes.

Ticks rely on animals and humans for their blood meals, but by practicing correct prevention methods as directed and on a regular basis, we can block the scents, interrupt their feeding cycle and do our part to reduce their life span.

Paula Jackson Jones is president and co-founder of Midcoast Lyme Disease Support and Education, the Maine-partner of the national Lyme Disease Association and member of Maine’s CDC Vector-borne Workgroup. She can be reached at: [email protected] or www.mldse.org