When choosing a repellent to prevent tick bites, look for the following information on the product label:
- Active Ingredient
- EPA-registered repellents will contain one of the following active ingredients:
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE)
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
- Tick Protection
- The label will usually list "ticks" as one of the insects that the product repels. The label might also list tick-borne diseases that the product will help prevent.
- Example: "Long Lasting Protection From Ticks, Mosquitoes and Biting Flies"
- Example: "Repels Ticks That May Carry Lyme Disease"
- Protection Time or Active Ingredient Percentage (%)
- Not all products will list the number of hours that the repellent will prevent tick bites. A repellent with a higher percentage of active ingredient will work longer to keep ticks from biting you. It is best to use repellent with at least 20% of an active ingredient like DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 to protect against tick bites, but DEET products with more than 50% DEET will not usually provide extra protection against tick bites.
Who should use tick repellent and when?
EPA-registered repellent is safe for use on:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Children older than 2 months
Insect repellent should not be used on babies younger than 2 months old. To protect babies from tick bites, dress them in clothing that covers arms and legs.
Use EPA-registered repellent when you spend time outdoors in areas with ticks, especially when risk of exposure is high (see seasonal tick risk graphic [PDF] below).
Ticks climb onto people when people brush against them — ticks do not jump or fly. Ticks are usually found on or in:
- leaf litter
- wooden picnic benches
- on the ends of tall grasses
To avoid tick bites, use EPA-registered insect repellent and walk in the middle of an outdoor trail or pathway to avoid coming in contact with ticks.
The different life stages of ticks are active during different times of the year. For example, for the western blacklegged tick that can carry Lyme disease, immature nymphs are most active in spring and early summer, and adult ticks are most active from fall through early spring. There is a risk for tick bites during all times of the year in California, so it is recommended that repellent be used to prevent tick bites when going outside into areas with ticks during any time of the year.
Life Cycle of the Western Blacklegged Tick
click to enlarge (image)
Learn how to apply repellent
Learn how to check for ticks: CDC's preventing tick bites webpage
Learn how to properly remove ticks: CDC's tick removal webpage
Seasonal Tick Risk Graphic - click to enlarge (PDF)