Fighting fall’s biting bugs

Olympus Digital Camera

September is here and that means many of us will be out and about in our favorite deer woods checking things out for the upcoming archery season. While I’m doing that, I annually search for honey mushrooms or popinkies as they’re commonly known. I’m not the only one out there however because campers, hikers, and other mushroom pickers are also likely to be in the woods this time of year. I’ve heard some say they are afraid of encountering a snake or even a bear but for me, it’s something much smaller.

Ticks are far more likely to be encountered than either bears or snakes and they are likely to cause far more problems than either of the former. To minimize my risk of contracting Lyme disease I spray my clothing every fall and spring with a tick repellent.

Fortunately, there are a variety of tick and insect repellents from which we can choose. Religiously using a repellent is an effective means for reducing or even eliminating bites from ticks or mosquitoes and for preventing disease, provided they are used properly.

In the springtime, to keep the gnats and black flies away while turkey hunting, I use a product containing DEET which is short for N,N-diethyl-m-toulamide. DEET was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 for the protection of soldiers in insect-infested areas and insect repellents containing DEET have been used by the general public since 1957. Products containing DEET come in various concentrations with some as high as 100 percent.

DEET doesn’t kill mosquitoes, ticks, flies, or fleas, it repels them. However, many people have reservations about using it. The consensus among scientists is that DEET is safe to use, and since 1960, the incidence of seizures with a potential link to DEET use was 1 per 100 million uses. The Environmental Protection Agency concluded that when consumers followed product-label instructions and took reasonable precautions, the health risks of DEETessentially vanished.

For those who may still be apprehensive about using products containing DEET picaridin may be a good alternative. Picaridin is a repellent that was modeled after a molecule found in pepper plants. It has been on the U.S. market since 2005 and has done well in tests. Specifically, spray products with at least 20 percent picaridin have worked as well as or better than some DEET based ones. Data exists that indicates the chemical is safe, and the World Health Organization and the CDC recommend products with this as the main ingredient.

In addition to using insect repellents, I am a firm believer in spraying my clothes with an insecticide containing permethrin. Permethrin will kill ticks that come in contact with it and it should only be used on clothing and not on skin. What I like about it is that besides killing any ticks that I may encounter, my clothes are still protected through several washings.

Of course, as with everything we should all read and follow the label directions for any product we choose to use. The label will state how to apply it and how often the product should be applied, whether it can be applied to the skin or clothing and it will contain special information for use on children.

To remain safe from insects as well as repellents look for products registered by the EPA. These products will have a registration number on them because they have been tested for toxicity as well as for their effectiveness. Read and follow all label directions and don’t overuse them.

It should be noted that two pharmaceutical companies, one in the United States and the other in France have begun final clinical trials on a vaccine that targets the outer surface protein of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Blocking this protein inhibits the bacterium’s ability to leave the tick and infect humans. If the Phase 3 study is successful, the companies said they are looking at applying for approval from the US Food and Drug Administration in about three years. Until then it’s wise to avoid areas with high grass or brush and to stick to the center of trails while walking or hiking. Wearing clothing treated with permethrin that covers the skin as much as possible will also minimize the risk of tick infection.

Categories: New York – Mike Raykovicz

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