Choosing a bug repellent effective against ticks

Choosing a bug repellent effective against ticks

If you live in (or plan to travel to) an area where there is a risk of contracting Lyme disease, it’s important to protect yourself against tick bites during your outdoor activities. In addition to wearing long sleeves and pants, it is recommended that you protect any exposed skin using a bug repellent. Here is what you need to know in order to choose a safe and effective product.

Effective ingredients: DEET and icaridine

According to the American publication Consumer Report, the active ingredient concentration and the type of product (e.g. lotion or spray) can have an impact on how effective a product is. 

DEET (15% or 30%)

According to Consumer Report, DEET is effective against ticks at a minimum concentration of 15%. It is not advisable to use concentrations higher than 30%, because this would increase the risk of side effects without increasing the protective effect. Here in Canada, both the government and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend using DEET up to 30% for ages 12 and up. In children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years old, however, they recommend using products with a DEET concentration of 10% or lower, and to limit the number of applications as follows:

  • 2 to 12 years old: apply no more than 3 times per day
  • 6 months to 2 years old: never more than once a day

20% icaridin (or picaridin)

Icaridin is effective against ticks at a concentration of 20%. According to Consumer Report, spray products are more effective than lotions, and lower concentrations are markedly less effective. In Canada, 20% icaridin products can be used as of 6 months of age.

Ingredients not recommended against ticks

Lemon eucalyptus oil

In Canada, insect repellents contain no more than 10% lemon eucalyptus oil and are not recommended as protection against ticks. They are considered safe as of 3 years of age.According to CR, insect repellents containing 30% lemon eucalyptus oil (available in the United States) are effective against ticks.

Soybean oil and citronella

Products made with soybean oil or citronella offer some protection against mosquitoes and blackflies, but do not protect against ticks.

Always follow the directions for use

Regardless of the product you choose, it’s essential that you follow the manufacturer’s directions, especially regarding the recommended ages and frequency of application. If you have any questions on insect repellents, speak to your pharmacist.

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