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Gearing up in the battle against ticks

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It’s been a rite of spring for me: Hurry into the field on one of the first balmy days, get bite by a deer tick, go to the clinic.

So after this year’s scenario, I vowed to take steps to make sure there wasn’t a Tick Bite II, what with this being only early May — that’s a sequel I can live without. And there’s no better time than now to step up tick defense: May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month in Minnesota.

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In the past, I’ve hosed down with a 40-percent Deet spray. But after my 2012 trip to urgent care on Sunday, I decided to try a head-to-toe combination of products, testing them in extreme field conditions by following my dog through tick-infested woods and brush south of Brainerd on Monday.

So along with that 40-percent Deet spray, I bought a can of Permethrin for use on clothes, boots and gear. The Deet spray is OK for use on skin, but not Permethrin; sprayed on old boots and clothes and gear, it supposedly provides heavy-duty protection for at least several weeks.

I had an Insect Shield/Elimitick T-shirt and bandanas and bought a camo Elimitick cap at Fleet Farm. So, with boots and old cargo pants treated with Permethrin spray — and Deet spray, just for good measure — along with the T-shirt under a long-sleeved “T” sprayed with Deet, and the Elimitick cap, I hit the woods with the dog (I had the Elimitick bandanas in the duffle bag, just in case I needed as gaiters if the spray wasn’t enough).

After about two hours spent chasing the dog through prime tick habitat (What isn’t prime tick habitat in these parts?), I found only one small deer tick on my pant leg. The cargo pants were light brownish in color, which is good for spotting any ticks that might stick. So although very small, it was easy to see.

But that was it. And I didn’t find any other ticks in checks later that day. I haven’t been afield since then, and still nothing. Knock on woods.

The dog, too, was tick-free. I recently switched him from Frontline to Vectra 3D, which is supposed to repel ticks in addition to killing the ones that find a way to hang on. The first month, I found fewer ticks on him, but the ones I did find that had burrowed into his fur were still alive. So far, so good with the most recent dose, which I applied — much like Frontline — just last week.

I’ve long thought that researchers need to come up with a sort of Frontline or Vectra 3D for humans. Insect Shield/Elimitick might be the closest thing to it. The only place I’ve found the clothing in the Brainerd area is at Fleet Farm in Baxter. They carry caps, ski masks, gloves and long-sleeved camo shirts and pants. But no gaiters, at least not yet. I carry a pair of gaiters I use for snowshoeing in my “anti-tick” duffle bag and could spray with the Permethrin, but it would be nice to have the Elimitick-treated apparel. The bandanas probably would suffice, too, if need be.

After drying (about four hours), Permethrin is mostly invisible and odorless, but I prefer the Insect Shield/Elimitick technology, which also lasts much longer — through 70 normal home launderings, the expected lifetime of a garment, the company said. And it also repels mosquitoes, ants, flies, chiggers and midges, according to the company,

It still might be on the early side for those other pests — I’ve only seen a few mosquitoes so far. But not, of course, for ticks, which were out earlier than usual this mild winter and spring.

You never can tell what the dog will drag in, but with that duffle bag in tow, I’m confident there won’t be a Tick Bite II.

That’s a sequel I can live without.

BRIAN S. PETERSON, outdoors editor, may be reached at brian.peterson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/brian_speterson. For his blogs, go to www. brainerddispatch.com.

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