I recently went on a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe where I was planning to do some outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking. It was one of the first times in a long time that I felt like I needed to have some kind of tick repellent to minimize the chances of getting another exposure. Knowing the role toxicity plays in recovering our health, I wanted something as natural as possible that wasn't going to lather me in a layer of poisons.
My good friend brought a product called "Buzz Away Extreme". It was very convenient as it came in moist towelettes that you simply rub around your ankles or other desired body parts. I did a quick rub around my neck as well. I really liked this product and ordered more for future use. The scent can be a little strong around the neck, but all in all, this seems like a potentially useful option. From their web site: Our mosquito repellent works for up to 4 hours against mosquitoes, up to 2.5 hours on ticks, and also repels fleas, gnats and flies.
Ingredients: Soybean Oil, Geranium Oil, Castor Oil, Purified Water, Coconut Oil, Glycerin, Citric Acid, Lecithin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Benzoic Acid. In a blend of Essential Oils of Wintergreen, Citronella, Cedarwood, Peppermint, and Lemongrass. (Patented base HOMS)
Another option I have seen at conferences is "Whup-A-Bug". I had ordered this one a couple of weeks before my trip but unfortunately it did not arrive until the day after I left. So, no personal experience with it. If you want to try it, plan ahead and make sure you leave plenty of time. They have been out of stock on this product in the past, and it seems that getting it shipped isn't a fast process. Hopefully your luck will be better than mine was. Nonetheless, this may be another useful option.
One last option that may be helpful is "Burt's Herbal Insect Repellent". This product is available at many health stores and Whole Foods and may be easier to get than the one's above. From their web site: Our 100% natural blend of bug-fighting oils repels even the most stubborn of pests. Rosemary, Lemongrass, and Citronella oils mix with 5 other oils that bugs hate, creating an all natural solution for keeping them away. Since there’s no DEET in this formula, it’s safe enough to apply with confidence to children and pets.
Ingredients: Castor oil 10.00%, rosemary oil 3.77%, lemongrass oil 2.83%, cedar oil .94%, peppermint oil .76%, citronella oil .57%, clove oil .38%, geranium oil .19%. Inert ingredients: 80.56%; soybean oil, vitamin E.
I would welcome any feedback you may have on any of these products as well as any recommendations you may have for other options that people may find helpful.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2010: Since I originally put this blog out a couple of weeks ago, I've gotten some additional feedback on tick repellents that I wanted to share here which may be useful in your decision-making process.
First, the magazine Consumer Reports came out with a review of various options in their July 2010 edition. In it, they rated Burt's quite poorly and found it to only be a 2 on 1-10 scale for effectiveness of repelling ticks. It seemed to do slightly better for some types of mosquitoes but not for others. So, it looks like Burt's may not be the best option according to Consumer Reports. They did not rate either of the other two repellents that I mention above.
One of my main interests is in finding good options that do not contain potential toxins such as DEET. I prefer natural options whenever possible. One other option that did not include DEET or Picaridin that was mentioned was Repel Lemon Eucalyptus. It scored an 8+ for repelling ticks. Thus, this may be an option worth a look. That said, lemon eucalyptus products are not entirely free of toxic effects according to this site.
Personally, I'm sticking with the Buzz Away Extreme for my next outing but very open to more input and ideas.