Nothing ruins a hiking trip quite like ticks. These tiny parasitic pests may not cause symptoms when they bite you, but they can be responsible for giving you diseases like Lyme disease.
Fortunately, you can avoid being bitten with tick sprays.
What’s the best tick spray for humans? Tick sprays are available in two forms: natural and insecticide. Effective natural sprays should have oil of eucalyptus (OLE) or peppermint oil. Effective insecticide sprays will have DEET or picaridin. Picaridin is considered to be a safer choice.
In the following, we’ll show you the best steps to take to avoid ticks and take a look at the most effective natural and chemical repelling sprays so that you can once again enjoy the outdoors.
Best Practices for Preventing an Infestation
Ticks are parasitic pests that are frequently picked up on hiking and camping trips. They live in areas with trees, shrubs, and tall grass.
Ticks feed on blood, so they latch onto people and animals so they can eat and will remain attached until they’re full.
Ticks are usually no bigger than 5 millimeters and are brown with eight legs.
You won’t be able to see their head if they’re latched onto you or a pet because they bury it in the skin while they feed on blood.
Tick bites don’t always have symptoms, and sometimes they can go unnoticed for days while they suck your blood. (Creepy, right?)
However, if you’re allergic to the bite or the tick is carrying a disease, you may notice symptoms such as:
- Pain and swelling around the bite.
- Muscle and joint pain.
- A rash, either around the bite or all over the body.
- Burning sensation around the bite.
- Difficulty breathing in severe cases.
- Stiff neck.
If you see a tick, visit your doctor right away, even if you don’t see any visible symptoms. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease once they’ve been attached to the skin for 36 hours.
A doctor will help you remove the tick if you can’t do it yourself and determine the next steps to take.
Don’t miss out on important tick prevention and elimination guidelines. Read through all of our tick articles for the info you need to stay safe.
Ticks aren’t always easy to spot, and they can stick around for several days. They like to hide in protected areas like the scalp, armpits, and in the bends of your knees and elbows.
Since they’re so pesky, it’s important to prevent them from finding you. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to keep them away from you.
Cover Your Skin
Cover your skin completely every time you go outside in an area known to have ticks, particularly during the warmer months when ticks are most active.
Depending on where you live, this might even apply to your backyard. Ways to cover your skin include:
- Long socks: Don’t wear socks shorter than crew socks. They should cover your entire ankle and part of your shin.
- Tuck in the edges: Tuck shirt sleeves into gloves, your shirt into your pants, and your pant legs into your socks.
- Always wear shoes: Never go barefoot in areas known to have ticks. Ticks latch onto hosts when they’re easily reachable, and your feet are a prime target.
Avoid Underbrush Areas
Areas with bushes, tall grass, and trees are prime spots for ticks to live and mate. Hot and humid climates will have the most ticks. Ticks usually aren’t as common in colder areas.
(Be sure to read our article “Where Do Ticks Live?” for more specific details on where you’re most likely to encounter ticks.)
If you go camping or take a hike in these types of areas, try to stay in flat areas with dirt or in the middle of trails.
Setting up a tent in long grass or walking on the edge of paths lined with bushes are the easiest ways to ruin your adventure with a tick infestation.
This means that you need to watch out for your pets too.
If you live in a humid area with bushes around your home, keep an eye on your dogs and cats since they’ll probably want to lie in those shady areas.
They can easily pick up ticks and bring them inside. Ticks won’t hesitate to switch from host to host.
Check for Ticks
Before you head inside (whether it’s your tent or house), check yourself for ticks.
Check your ankles, behind your knees, the bend of your elbow, in and behind your ears, in your hair, in between your toes, and other concealed areas that might be moist for ticks.
They like to stay hidden to stay safe.
Check your pets for ticks too. Their legs and bellies are the more common places you’ll find them, but small animals can easily have pests all over them.
This is why using animals known to eat ticks as a pest control method isn’t the best way to go.
In fact, attempting to do so can be counterproductive and make the tick population increase significantly.
If you do see ticks, remove them immediately if you’re able to do so, and head straight to the shower to wash your body with hot water and soap.
In our article “What Happens If You Get Bitten By a Tick,” you’ll learn symptoms to watch for and why immediate removal is so important.
Head to the doctor if you can’t get the tick out with tweezers or the alternative methods listed here since they can transmit Lyme disease and other illnesses.
Tick Spray for Humans – What to Look for
Tick spray is one of the easiest ways to avoid bringing ticks into your home.
There are many varieties made with different ingredients, so there’s sure to be something that will be suitable for everyone.
Types of Tick Spray
There are several different types of tick spray that you can choose from.
Repellent Vs. Killer
Repellents are meant to prevent bugs from landing on you. They’re not guaranteed to kill bugs on contact, and you might still see a few ticks here and there.
Many repellents are also killers. These will kill or poison bugs on contact. The chemicals in the product will either get on the tick’s feet or will be ingested.
The time it takes to kill the tick will depend on the product’s strength and how long you’ve been wearing it.
Natural Vs. Insecticide
Natural sprays are made with plant-based ingredients and don’t contain any harmful chemicals. Some sprays are certified organic, while others are not.
Most natural sprays are meant to be used as repellents, but there are some that will kill on contact.
Insecticide sprays contain at least one toxic chemical, which is typically DEET or permethrin. The chemicals kill bugs on contact and repel them too.
The chemicals are deemed to be safe as long as they’re used as instructed, but they’re known to cause skin and respiratory irritation and can even have lethal effects in severe cases.
Liquid Spray vs. Aerosol Spray
Liquid sprays are in liquid form inside of the bottle and usually come out that way too.
Depending on how the sprayer releases the liquids, you may have to rub the spray into your skin with your hand.
These are generally messier, but it ultimately depends on the spray formula and sprayer nozzle.
Aerosol sprays are liquid on the inside, but they come out as a fine mist.
These don’t usually require any kind of rubbing in unless you’ve really layered on the spray so that it’s dripping (and that’s not the recommended way to use aerosol sprays).
The effectiveness of a spray will depend on the type of product as well as its quality.
Many insecticide sprays boast 8, 10, or 12-hour protection against ticks, but you can expect them to be less effective the longer you wear them.
Meanwhile, a spray that only lasts an hour or two might keep its potency the entire time.
The effectiveness of tick spray seems to vary from person to person.
One might swear Product A is the only spray they’ll ever buy, while another person says that Product B is better than A.
The variation of a product could be a result of differences in how the product was made, the age of the product, or how each individual used it.
A person who squirts the bottle once will have different feedback than someone who squirted it six times.
Safe for Use Around People and Pets
Since insecticides are toxic when used incorrectly, they pose more of a risk.
When tick sprays that contain DEET, permethrin, or picaridin are used, carefully follow the directions on the label.
Avoid spraying the product directly in your face, especially the eyes, nose, and mouth. Don’t use them on small children, babies, or animals unless the product says you can.
Natural sprays are made with plant-based ingredients that are typically safe for everyone.
The thing to note about this is that essential oils are potential irritants. If the oils aren’t diluted enough, they can cause the skin to burn or develop a rash.
This is really only a concern with homemade sprays, however. Products that are sold in stores usually have the formula figured out.
Natural products might contain ingredients someone is allergic to.
The most common ingredients in these sprays are peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, cedar oil, and cinnamon.
Read ingredient labels carefully if you or someone else is allergic to ingredients that might go into a natural spray.
Ease of Use
Tick sprays for humans are easy to use. You apply them on your skin or gear by pressing down on the sprayer nozzle.
Some bottles can continually spray while others only squirt a little at a time.
Most sprays aren’t reusable. However, liquid sprays might have refills available that you can screw an existing sprayer nozzle onto.
If you make a DIY natural spray, you can easily refill the bottle as many times as you want.
Most sprays, whether insecticide or natural, are disposable once the container is emptied.
Insecticide spray bottles should never be reused or refilled with anything other than the spray since they contain toxic chemicals.
In fact, you aren’t even supposed to throw away a partially used bottle in the dumpster but should instead contact your local waste agency for instructions on how to throw it away.
Now that we’ve looked at the basics of tick spray, let’s get into the best products on the market.
Keeping ticks off your body is important, but it’s equally important to prevent them from taking over your yard. Here you’ll learn how to banish them from your property for good.
Best Natural Tick Sprays for Humans
Natural tick sprays are a great option for those who are conscious about personal and environmental health.
These products don’t contain harmful chemicals and are typically safe to be used by children.
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
This natural, plant-based spray relies on oil of lemon eucalyptus, or OLE, as the main killing ingredient, which is just as effective as a small amount of DEET.
Although it’s marketed primarily for mosquito control, it repels most insects, including ticks.
Many users say they don’t have to deal with mosquitoes or ticks at all when using this product.
- DEET-free product.
- Lasts up to 6 hours.
- Not greasy or sticky.
- Lemon and eucalyptus scent.
- Known to cause allergic reactions for some people.
Cedarcide Original Cedar Oil Insect Repellent
This cedar-scented spray gets its scent from cedar oil, which is a natural form of pest control since it kills ticks and many other insects.
The best part of this spray is that you can spray it on just about anything – furniture, camping gear, carpet, and even your pet.
This product may leave behind a residue, however, so you should test it out on a small portion of material before you spray it all over everything.
- Kills ticks and other insects.
- Safe to use on clothes, carpet, gear, skin, furniture, and pets.
- Pleasant cedar scent.
- Contains, but does not list, soybean oil, which many people are allergic to.
- May leave behind a residue.
Nantucket Spider Extra Strength Tick Repellent Spray
This natural, DEET-free spray is made specifically for ticks. It’s made with a variety of essential oils including cedar, peppermint, cloves, rosemary, and cinnamon.
Aside from essential oils, it contains water and vegetable-based glycerin, so it’s truly an all-natural product.
It’s safe for kids to use, but make sure to read all the ingredients first if anyone has any allergies.
- Safe for children.
- No toxic chemicals.
- Vanilla spice scent.
- Lab tests show 92% effective, so it’s not a full guarantee.
Yaya Organics Tick Ban
This product also relies on essential oils to repel ticks. It has a woodsy scent so it’s perfect to take on hikes and camping trips.
You can spray it on your kids and even your pets, and it shouldn’t cause any irritation as long as they aren’t allergic to the ingredients.
- Safe for children and pets.
- Light woodsy scent.
- Alcohol and DEET free.
- Frequently shipped with bad packaging, resulting in spills.
- Does not have official organic certification.
3 Moms Organics TickWise Insect Repellent
This tick spray was made with safety in mind. They’re straightforward about the ingredients and even list the inert ingredients, which many companies don’t bother to list.
The spray has a strong citronella scent that is liked by many people, but it may be seen as a negative by some.
It’s safe to use for children and pets, but if you want to apply it to pets, you need to spray it on your hands first, and then rub it on their stomach and legs.
- Vegan and free of common allergens including soy, nuts, and gluten.
- Safe for children and pets, including horses.
- Strong but pleasant citronella smell.
- Should be applied every 1-2 hours.
- Should only be applied to the human’s hands and rubbed onto the pet.
Best Insecticide Tick Spray for Humans
Tick sprays that use toxic chemicals should always be the last resort since they can cause problems for people and the environment.
Despite their ingredients, there’s no denying that they’re easy and effective to use, and it’s possible to use them safely if you use them as directed.
Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent
This isn’t necessarily for humans, but it is for a human’s belongings. Ticks can crawl on your clothes and hide in your gear and eventually find their way onto your skin.
You can prevent this by spraying your stuff down with this spray. Spray your tent, sleeping bag, clothing, and hats for a safe camping trip.
This works well when paired with Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent, which you’ll find below.
- Kills ticks on contact.
- Apply to almost any surface.
- Full protection when used with skin sprays.
- Not to be sprayed on skin.
Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent
Picaridin is arguably safer than DEET, which is what makes this product an excellent choice if you want to be more conscious about what you put on your skin.
Picaridin is still a chemical, but it doesn’t irritate the skin or nose like DEET does.
This particular spray won’t damage materials, so you don’t have to worry about it dripping onto your clothes and gear.
The downside of this product is that it’s more effective against mosquitoes than ticks. You can expect it to repel ticks for 8 hours and mosquitoes for 12 hours.
- Non-greasy and dries fast.
- Up to 8-hour protection from ticks.
- Won’t damage synthetic coatings or plastics.
- DEET free.
- Offers 12-hour protection from mosquitoes but not from ticks.
Repel Insect Repellent
This spray is designed for the outdoorsy types of people.
It’ll last for several hours before you need to reapply it, so it’s great to take with you outside if you don’t want to stop and reapply it every hour.
It contains 40% DEET, which is pretty high, so be careful not to get it in your eyes, nose, or mouth. It doesn’t state it’s waterproof, so you should reapply once you’re dry after getting wet.
- Will last for several hours.
- Contains oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), a natural ingredient.
- Won’t damage nylon, cotton, or wool.
- Contains a high dosage of DEET (40%).
Ben’s Tick Repellent
This is another DEET-free spray that’s safe to apply directly on your skin and belongings.
It’ll repel ticks for up to 12 hours and you won’t have to worry about it damaging your belongings.
It’s an aerosol spray, so you can easily spray it all over yourself and your clothing. Just be sure to protect your face.
- Apply to both skin and gear.
- 12-hour protection.
- Repels most kinds of ticks.
- DEET free.
- Strong scent that many find irritating.
Repel Tick Defense
This spray is DEET free and will repel ticks and mosquitoes for up to 10 hours. It’s unscented, so you won’t have to deal with any annoying smells while you’re wearing it.
You’ll need to reapply it after you get wet since it’s not waterproof.
This product comes in a 2-pack with moist towelettes to remove the spray, but it only provides one towelette per can which likely won’t be enough.
- Repels ticks for 10 hours.
- No odors or scents.
- Safe for clothing.
- DEET free.
- Not enough moist towelettes for the amount of spray you get.
Tick spray for humans is easy to use and comes in a variety of options. You can choose a natural option or something that has insecticides that will kill the ticks.
Some sprays are safe to spray on gear and fabrics so you can prevent ticks from hiding in your stuff.
Whichever kind of spray you choose, be sure to read the label so you can be sure to apply it correctly and safely.