Man vs tick – a few words about repellents
A tick is a tick is a tick, of course. We airsofters, because of the sport we’re playing, are much more exposed to this little monsters, because they live mainly in the woods – which is our favorite place for skirmishes ;). The bite of tick itself cannot be felt, but it can cause some serious issues, of which risk increases about 12 hours of having a tick in our skin if we don’t get rid of it. Some of ticks can carry a serious diseases like Tick-borne encephalitis or lyme disease.
These arachnids search for their victims by Haller’s organ, which can detect the smell and dampness, which makes a sweated airsofter a very tasty feeder. To pretend that, it’s needed to cover that factors or overpover them with something that will scare the bugs away – so they’ll ignore us. In this article I’ll tell you a little about currently available ways to protect yourselves from unwanted bites.
A proper clothing
That’s the one of the most important factors. When going in the woodlands, it’s a priority to cover as much of skin as it’s possible – wear long-sleeves, trousers and high boots. Ticks live in tall grass and small bushes, so it would be good to put your pantlegs inside shoes – this should prevent ticks from getting on our leg skin and wandering on whole body, looking for a place to bite.
For example – clove oil, herbal tree oil, lemon grass oil, peppermint oil. You can dilute one of them with vegetable oil and spread it on your skin. The characteristic smell of these oils should scare the ticks away, but it is not know how long does this method work. It’s a simple DIY method. I wouldn’t recommend this, unless you really like to smell good in the middle of the forest 😉
It’s a very effective poison, which is made not to scare the tick away, but kill it. Because of its toxicity – it can’t be used directly on skin, but only on your clothing! In the liquid state the permethrin is can be deadly to cats, so the impregnation should be only made away from them, for example in your basement. When the clothing dries up, which usually takes about 3 hour or a little more – it’s safe for your lovely cat. The impregnation process is quite easy thing to do. At first, you need to buy a concentrate of the permethrin (usually the 25%) and water it down with 10ml or 20ml for 0,5l of water proportion (depending of choice of 0,5% solution, or the 1% solution). Then you just spray your uniform, shoes, gear etc. with this solution and wait for it to dry up. The whole process needs to be repeated every few weeks.
It’s the most popular method. The main difference from the permethrine is that repellents only scare the bugs, and the pemerthrine – kills them. Today’s known repellents are:
– DEET – it scares the mosquitoes and ticks by its smell, but it doesn’t cover their sense of carbon dioxide, that we release while breathing. This repellent is used in concentration of 5% to 50% (above 50% there is no noticeable big advantage of longevity). For example, the concentration of 25% gives protection period of 8 hours. When using this repellent, be aware of it potential effects on plastic made materials (it can tarnish your eye protection or destroy polymers of you equipment). In the bushcraft community it’s sometimes said that the DEET is effective, but only for bugs and mosquitoes, not ticks and they recommend to use permethrine impregnated clothes instead. Personally, I use the DEET-based chemicals and I haven’t got any tickle from the forest, and I’m playing airsoft for a long time. Currently, the DEET is the most popular repellent available on the market, because of its good longevity and the high number of tests made to check its affects on human health.
– IR3535 – it’s also widely used in anti-bug sprays. It’s has a little less longevity than the DEET and is also harsh to any polymers. It has a little different smell than the DEET, but who really cares? The effects of this substance are almost the same as DEET.
– Pricaridin – what’s its most important difference from the DEET and IR3535 – it doesn’t have any bad affect on the plastics. It work definitely less harsh and has lower risk of allergic reaction than the other repellents. The product with Pricaridin contain maximum concentration of 20% . The substance works similar to the others.
It is also worth to say, that the listed above repellents are officially recommended by the Environmental Working Group. The theory is finished, so it’s time to tell you something about two exemplary products.
Ultrathon – 25% DEET
Ultrathon comes in a spray can, which has additional lock that prevents the product from spilling out the can in your bag while transporting. The packaging contains an aesthetic inscription, that has all the necessary for user information:
– how to apply you product
– the ingredients
– some warnings about the methods of storage – I don’t recommend to keep this can in your car on hot sunny day for the whole skirmish.
– the eventual side effects of the substance and first aid tutorial
You can use Ultrathon both directly on skin and on the clothing, but it’s not recommended to use the substance on skin, that’s covered with clothes. I’ve tested it – before going out in the woods I have spread the product both on my skin and on my uniform. After 8,5 hours of living in that outfit in high physical activity ( the airsoft skirmish ;)) I haven’t noticed any irritation on my skin. The spray also didn’t make any affect both on my cotton Redwood pants nor the Under Armour T-shirt, which is made of 84% polyester and 16% of elastane.
The conditions of test weren’t easy for the Ultrathon – it was hot, stifling, and the humidity of the forest was quite high. The skirmish was also very dynamic and I was sweating hard. Despite of that factors, which could potentially highly decrease the effectiveness of the product, it performed flawless. There was a lot of mosquitoes in the area, but none of them even tried to bite me. After about 7 hours from application of product, the mosquitoes started to have some interest in me, but still there were no bites. Because of that I think the 8 hour period of protection in the information is the maximum, after which you have to spray the substance on yourself again to have it performing in full functionality.
I’d like to also give you some advice for usage of this product. If you’re applying it directly on the skin I recommend to wash your hands after that – because they have the most contact with your expensive gear which is vulnerable to the DEET.
Mugga – 20% DEET
Mugga comes in packaging similar to the popular antiperspirants – it’s small and very handy 50ml container with the roll-on. The method of application is completely different from the Ultrathon – Mugga is used only directly on skin as a cream. On the inscription there can be found info about:
– instruction of usage
– ingredients of product
– instructions of segregating this product in trash
– some safety information
– the first aid instruction
It is worth to keep an eye on your nearby polymer equipment. I’ve tested this product in a little less airsoft conditions – on the BBQ party with friends, which usually ends with a lot of mosquito bites 😉 The information on container says that this product can protect you from bugs for about 7 hour and it’s definitely true. From 6pm to 1am I didn’t get any single bite from mosquitoes, but after like 6-6,5 hours the situation was quite similar to the one with Ultrathon – bugs were interested in me, but hadn’t the courage to bite me. It was the high time to applicate the Mugga again on my skin.
From my personal experience – for airsoft conditions the best repellents are that whose contain no less than 20% of DEET. Everything below that value can be considered as useless – I definitely advise you against the “market” products (but sometimes you can find the Ultrathon“>Ultrathon there, I’m not talking about it 😉 ). When playing on some highly damp area, while the temperature was about 30 Celsius degrees I was bitten by A LOT of mosquitoes, that didn’t really care about my market 15% DEET spray. When I was using the >20% DEET products – nothing like that ever happened.
If you’re going for some longer games, like milsims – take the repellents with yourselves and use them every 7 or 8 hours, because that is the border line of effectiveness of them. I also recommend you to try that impregnation with permethrine – this mixed with the DEET repellents should guarantee a maximum protection from our biggest woodlands enemy – the tick.