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  • Writer's pictureJohn Skvorak Jr DMD

Protect your Family from Tick Borne Diseases

This Spring there has been an abundance of ticks and tick borne diseases are on the rise. As most people know, ticks are responsible for the transmission of Lyme disease to people and animals. Many people may be unaware that the deer tick can also transmit Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis. Lately, another disease transmitted by ticks has been in the local news, the Powassan virus. The Powassan virus is another illness that is transmitted by ticks and has led to some very severe illness in southern Maine and even the death of a woman in Freeport. Unfortunately, it is believed that the Powassan virus can be transmitted in less than an hour after a tick bites and, as of yet, there is no curative treatment for this viral infection.

I have had many patients and even family members who have suffered from Lyme disease and I know it can be a debilitating illness. I still enjoy the outdoors of Maine, but several years ago I started using permethrin on my clothes. I am amazed by the number of people I talk to who don’t know about the effectiveness of permethrin.

I spend a lot of time in the woods and fields throughout the year and have never had a tick on me when I have used permethrin on my clothes. Permethrin kills ticks and many insects that lack the metabolic ability to deactivate this compound. I have seen some ticks on my permethrin treated pants that fell off within a few seconds after I noticed them. Recently, my brother Pete’s son came home after romping around the woods for a while and had several ticks on his clothes. Having convinced my brother to use permethrin on his clothes several years ago, Pete, who is a scientist at Idexx, decided to do a little experiment with the ticks. He removed the ticks from my nephew and placed them on a shirt he had treated with permethrin two weeks prior and then observed the ticks. All the ticks that were exposed to this shirt died, some quite quickly while others took longer. Even those that did not die right away, appeared to be adversely affected and it did not appear that they would be able to crawl up a vertical surface, like a pant leg.

Permethrin is a medication used in a topical cream to treat scabies and lice. It is also used for flea and tick prevention on dogs and farm animals (cats are adversely affected). When it is used to combat ticks on people, it is used by spraying it on your outer clothes and allowing them to dry for four hours before use. One of the nice things about pe

rmethrin is that it will last for as long as 6 weeks and several launderings. “Sawyer” is a common brand of permethrin that you can find at LL Bean, Cabelas and even Walmart in the camping department.

I like to spray my shoes or boots, socks, pants, shirt and ball cap. I will then make a distinctive mark on the inside tag of these garments like an “X” with an indelible ink pen, and then make the same mark on the calendar date so I can keep track of what clothing was sprayed and when. Then, 6 weeks from that date I will spray the clothes again to make sure my permethrin protection is effective.

I would also recommend placing an elastic band around the bottom of your pant leg that seals your permethrin treated socks and pants together so ticks cannot get under your pant leg without coming in contact with your treated clothing. Alternatively, you can tuck your pant leg into your socks or place some duct tape around the bottom of your pant leg to seal the opening between your leg and your pants.

I know it is a little bit of an inconvenience, but after seeing how these tick borne illnesses can dramatically change your life, I think it is well worth the little bit of extra effort. I hope everyone enjoys a beautiful, and tick free, summer in Maine.

John Skvorak Jr, DMD

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