• Ticks can be tiny and easy to miss
  • They can crawl up boots and trousers
  • It is easier to see them on light coloured clothing
  • Whatever protection you use, ticks may still get to your skin
  • Bottom line: check your skin for attached ticks!
  • Don’t be afraid of the outdoors: gardening, walking and being outside are necessary for your health.[1]

Be vigilant

Where possible, keep to paths and avoid walking through deep vegetation. If practical, keep your legs covered to make it harder for ticks to reach your skin. Check for ticks regularly and brush off any you see on your clothing before they have a chance to attach to you.

If you spot one attached, remove it as soon as you can.

Using repellents

Insect repellents containing the active ingredients DEET and Picaridine are  effective against ticks. DEET is widely available and is thought to be safe for most people, but has been associated with adverse reactions in sensitive individuals. It can also damage synthetic clothing if applied to the fabric. Picaridine has a slightly lower toxicity and does not damage synthetic fabrics but some studies have shown it to be less effective against ticks.

Clothing can be treated with the insecticide Permethrin. A number of products are available, which are often primarily intended for treating clothing and mosquito nets. Permethrin is safe for humans in normal doses, but is dangerous to cats and to aquatic creatures, so should be used with care.

There are many brands available which use these ingredients. Repellents should generally be applied sparingly directly to the skin, but follow the instructions supplied by the manufacturer. [2]

Scented products based on natural plant oils such as lavender can repel ticks but they tend to be volatile, last only for a short time and have not been scientifically tested. [3]

When you get home

Brush over clothing to remove loose ticks before going inside. As soon as practicable check skin carefully all over for ticks. Pay attention to folds in the skin and other areas where a tick could hide, especially behind the knee and in the groin. On small children pay attention to the hairline.

It is possible for ticks to remain in clothing. Clothing from an unknown source (eg charity shops) should be washed well before use.

Research has found that ticks will be killed in a 60°C wash but will survive a 40°C wash. [4] The authors state “Placing clothing directly in a dryer and drying for a minimum of 6 min on high heat will effectively kill ticks on clothing”.  Note that the clothes must be dry at the beginning to ensure the ticks are exposed to the full 6 minutes of dry heat. This work was on the American tick Ixodes scapularis, but is likely to apply also to Ixodes ricinus, the usual tick to attach to humans in the UK.

Habitat management

It is not practical to treat large areas of vegetation with acaricides to kill ticks, as it is difficult to reach into the leaf litter and large numbers of harmless and beneficial creatures would also be killed.

Practical steps to managing public access in woodland, heath and other potential tick habitat include keeping clear paths with closely mown borders.

Alert users to the risks of tick bites. Public Health England have a Tick Awareness Toolkit which may help organisations develop locally applicable awareness material.


  1. The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. Pretty J et al.  (2005) International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 15:5, 319-337
  2. Expert review of the evidence base for arthropod bite avoidance. Journal of travel medicine. 2010;17(3):182–92.Goodyer LI, Croft AM, Frances SP, Hill N, Moore SJ, Onyango SP, et al.
  3. Management Options for Ixodes ricinus-A review of prevention strategies. Cerny, J. et al. (2020).  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(1830).
  4. The heat is on: Killing blacklegged ticks in residential washers and dryers to prevent tickborne diseases. Nelson, C. et al. (2016).  Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases, 7(5), 958–963.