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Best Tick Repellents and Preventatives

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: July 2, 2019
Best Tick Repellents and Preventatives

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Ticks cause a lot of disease and discomfort but there are a lot of things you can do to prevent them that cost little or nothing. The best tick repellents (natural and chemical) are easy to get and should be a part of your preps.

Tick populations are very dependent on where you live.

Where I grew up in Washington State I remember there were very few ticks around I never remember getting them off of anything at all. Here in western NC we have a ton of them with some years being worse than others. There are a lot of things you can do to help out with ticks. I am going to talk about repellants and also prevention measures you can take.

Consider guinea fowl or backyard chickens

Just a small flock of chickens will eat a lot of ticks, spiders, and eat/kill baby snakes. Years when we have not had any chickens we notice more ticks and moreBlack Widow Spiders than we would like. Using a movable chicken pen works too. You don’t just have to let them run amuck in your backyard.

Wash after exposure to environments like wooded areas or tall grass.

After being out in areas where ticks are likely, at the end of the day take a hot shower and use soap like Dr. Bronnors Peppermint Castille Soap. They really don’t like peppermint and I know for a fact that this soap helped prevent fleas and ticks and even make them fall off of dogs. A half gallon jug of Dr. Bronnors goes a long way.

Clothing for protection is one of the easiest ways to prevent ticks from coming into contact with your skin.

Ticks want to come in contact with skin and they can travel up your hair to your scalp. If you are out in the woods a lot then you might want to make sure to wear pants with drawstrings at the cuffs or wear them tucked into boots. Long sleeve shirts and a good hat can also help.

Those with long hair should consider putting it up. I suppose in a severe situation where it is hard to stay clean you may want to consider cutting hair shorter, bundling under a hat at all times.

Men with access to a method of shaving could consider ridding themselves of facial hair or make sure to use a comb and look closely each day for any ticks. I live in an area with a large population of bearded men but come tick season you see them lose some length!

Check yourself and look over your younger children daily during tick season.

If you live in an area with ticks, particularly if you are in a more rural environment, it pays to check you and young kids daily. Tell others to check themselves. Knowing that you have a tick embedded means removing it ASAP. The longer they stay attached the worse it is.

What To Do If A Tick Is Embedded

A tick that is embedded must be removed promptly. Tweezers or special tick removal wands/tools all work. Grasp the tick behind the head by the body and pull out. Make sure to not aim too low and leave part of the tick in your skin because it increases the risk of infection and other complications. if you do this then make sure to soak in a hot salty solution on a rag. Epsom salts would work well in this case. If you can remove more then do so and then put some antibiotic ointment on it.

Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

You need to be aware of the potential for Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This is a terrible disease to get and it can cause lifelong health issues. Write down the date you found the tick embedded and watch for any symptoms over the course of 2 weeks. After that, you are probably ok. There are a lot of people that find ticks on them that never have any ill effects. It is just important to know your situation so you can get help ASAP if needed. The sooner something like this is treated the better.

If someone bitten by a tick starts feeling ill or becomes weak then get them checked out by a doctor. Make sure that you inform the doctor of your concerns. Since Lyme Disease and tick-related major illness is so rare some doctors don’t even think to look into it. The symptoms can be similar to a lot of other illnesses. I know of a case where an 8-year-old girl got sick and died because the doctor simply never thought to check for tick-related illness.

Use flea and tick treatment on dogs and cats and make sure their sleeping and living areas are clean.

Frontline is what I use on our farm dogs and cats normally but I have heard some complain that some fleas are becoming more resistant to it. For us, it still seems to work. Regardless you should use something. There are some natural solutions if you don’t want to use chemicals on them. Ecosmart insect repellant works as long as you take care to not spray eyes.

If you have dog and cat beds then they should be something that you can wash easily. If a dog bed has an encasement around it then you should only need to wash the slipcover. You can make a good dog bed out of a toddler mattress and use sheets sized for it. This is actually cheaper than a lot of dog beds, especially if you find a good used mattress.

Stay On Top Of Tick Prevention

It is easy to let things go and forget to take preventive measures during the offseason. Ticks begin showing up at different times depending on your region and it can also vary a bit by year. Some years the conditions for ticks are better than others. Starting with prevention before they take hold for the year in your area is best if you can manage it. At the very least you want to start taking measures the minute you see any signs of ticks.

Giving treatments time to work

I have myself made the mistake of seeing a tick on my dog and thinking “well that Frontline is doing a lot of good”. The truth is that treatments take at least 24 hours to start working effectively. Not only that but some actually require the tick or flea to bite the dog and then fall off. I have thought that I was going to pull a live tick out of my dog’s skin only to realize it was already dead from the Frontline but just had not had a chance to fall off.

Sometimes treatments don’t work the best but make sure you give them a reasonable time frame before giving up on them and moving on to another. It is also important to make sure that you are not overloading pets with different anti-tick medications and treatments. If you have given Frontline or similar and it is not working then ask your vet about it. Some dogs are more sensitive to having multiple treatments than others.

Keep dogs and cats groomed.

Brushing a dog out regularly can help because it can rid them of ticks and fleas before they embed themselves. It also gives you a chance to notice them. If you have a long-haired dog or cat this is particularly important. Mats and tangles can lead to you not seeing something that is important. This can be a challenge with some dogs. Trimming hair or shaving can be helpful too but make sure to follow best guidelines for your dog. Some breeds have different hair needs than others.

Infected bites need immediate attention. Never put it off.

Hopefully you catch tick bites before infection sets in, however, if part of the tick is left embedded, the bite can become infected. Topicals are helpful but in more serious cases you may need oral antibiotics. Any signs of redness, streaks, or an animal or person just not acting 100% should be noted.


There are a lot of bug repellents out there. While all the things I have talked about up to now have focused on actions you can take, this next bit is going to offer a variety of repellents from conventional to more natural based. You may be sensitive to some of the ingredients in these repellents so always make sure to apply a little to your skin and give it a few minutes or a few hours before dousing yourself.


I like this repellent because it is inexpensive natural based. I even use this on my dogs if the flies are bothering them at times.

Herbal Armor

Burt’s Bees

Let’s talk about DEET

Some people have a lot of negative things to say about DEET.  Personally, I don’t want to put it on my skin but I do keep a stick or two of it around for applying to the outside of clothing and hats. It is highly effective stuff but you really don’t have to put it on your skin for it to do some good.

I just wanted to share this bit of info because I think DEET is often portrayed as having to be applied all over your bare skin and that is just not true. Just a little bit on clothing goes a long way.

Some people are sensitive to DEET so if you have never used it then you should do a patch test, especially if you have other allergies or sensitive skin.

Permethrin Versus Pyrethrum

Both permethrin and pyrethrum are effective against ticks. These two insecticides are often confused. What they have in common is very low toxicity. Where these two differ is that permethrin is the man-made or synthetic version of pyrethrum. The cost is much lower as well. The reason for the huge price difference is that pyrethrum is derived from chrysanthemums which is costly to do. Permethrin is made in a lab with no flowers required.

A lot of tick repellents and treatments for around the home contain permethrin and it is very effective.  This is a component of some dog and cat flea and tick treatments and shampoos as well. If it matters to you then I would say buy some pyrethrum foggers for use in the home and then try essential oil based repellents for your skin. While the cost is much higher than the synthetic version, it goes a long way if using it around the average home for insect control.

Some essential oils are very effective at repelling ticks.

Here are some examples of essential oils that will help keep ticks off of you and your family. A lot of the natural based tick repellents you can buy are based on a combination of these oils.

  • Lemongrass
  • Clove
  • Peppermint
  • Wintergreen
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea Tree

Neem Oil

Neem comes from the Neem tree and it is very effective against a variety of insects. It is also effective against parasites like lice. It smells very distinct. You might be familiar with its use for organic agriculture and in cosmetics. Some say that it has some birth control effects but from what I have gathered you would really have to be using a lot of it for it even to begin to affect you in this way.

Garlic Pills

I have not tested the theory that garlic pills help keep ticks off of people but there are a lot of people out there that claim it works. At the least, garlic is good for a lot of other things like heart and blood pressure health. There are plenty of garlic pills that are made so that you won’t stink of garlic all the time. I have to wonder if the pills that do have an odor to them work better since ticks are rumored to not like the smell at all!

Some years ticks are worse than others.

The type of weather you have and various conditions can make it a harder year for you to control ticks. During this time it pays to take some extra precautions as soon as you notice major tick activity.

Some livestock doesn’t seem to get ticks regularly. Our sheep, for example, have too much wool. Even when we had cattle, you would rarely see a tick embedded. Smoothly coated animals sometimes have an easier time keeping ticks off them than medium haired ones that have a lot of hair for ticks to grip onto but not so much that they can’t make it to the skin before being slung off.

It may take you awhile to figure out what methods are best for you.

While the basic prevention methods described can be tolerated by anyone, some of the chemicals, essential oils and combinations of oils may not be tolerated by everyone.  Using high-quality essential oils is always recommended. If something sounds too cheap then you should be careful. Oils that are potent take a lot to make and that makes the cost higher.

Varying what you use can help.

People talk about how insects and pests become resistant to some methods and chemicals over time. One way to avoid this being an issue is to change what you use or use a combination of products throughout tick season. If you notice something is not working so well, add something else to your regime. You may even consider throwing out or putting away for next year whatever you are using and then using other stuff the rest of the season.

What do you use to prevent or kill ticks around your place? Have you experienced any resistance to some of the products you have tried? I saw during the course of my research that some people think that the only thing that really works for people is permethrin or DEET. I think they have not tried enough natural solutions because essential oil based sprays seem to be effective for us despite living with acres of forest on several sides of our house.

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8 Responses to “Best Tick Repellents and Preventatives”

  1. I too live in the mountains of western NC. I look forward to winters where the temperature drops below 10 deg F for a few days several times during the winter. The following spring proves the benefit of a cold winter, with less critters to fall on to you or crawl over you. Ticks this past spring were bad. My wife found several that dropped down my shirt collar.

  2. great article. on the embedded tick removal topic – i have had great success with using heat to get them to withdraw. a lit cigarette for example placed near their body. They can’t stand it and pull their heads out to relocate, then you grab them. no risk of breaking their heads off inside.

  3. As a usual tick and chigger magnet, I was happy to find that taking a daily dose of MSM completely keeps me chigger/tick free. Each person is different, so you have to experiment to see how much will work for you. This is a simple, inexpensive fix.

    As a side benefit, my friend has joint pain, and he said that it also stopped that problem.

  4. I was bitten by a tick once and got very ill. Fortunately, I was given antibiotics early on and so the course of the illness was limited.

    Because of my experience, I very much appreciate this article. What you have written will save many people from a lot of grief.

  5. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease 5 years ago and was taking Antibiotics and Nonsteroidal anti-Inflammatory drug which seemed to help. However, I still suffer from some of the symptoms. My symptoms have always been chronic fatigue, joint pain, and even neurological problems in controlling hand and leg movements. I am a 54 year old female. the Antibiotics wasn’t really working and I could not tolerate them for long due to severe side effects, so this year our family doctor started me on Natural Herbal Gardens Lyme disease Herbal mixture, We ordered their Lyme disease herbal treatment after reading alot of positive reviews, i am happy to report with the help of Natural Herbal Garden natural herbs I have been able to reverse my symptoms using herbs, my symptoms totally declined over a 8 weeks use of the Natural Herbal Gardens Lyme disease herbal mixture. My Lyme disease is totally reversed! Their official web page is naturalherbalgardens. c om this is a herbal store that will be leaving it’s footprint in this world. I’m 54 and have never been this healthier

  6. when my cat had fleas, part of my treatment was to dust her bed and other places she liked to sleep with diatomaceous earth. got rid of the fleas in record time.

  7. Order “oil of pennyroyal”. Saturate a cotton string in this and tie the string around your ankles.You will never find fleas or ticks on your legs after being in the woods all day. I even mix it in with liquid DEET, to apply on arms, back etc. For flying bugs, oil of citronella cannot be beat.

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