Does This Tick Spray Rid Ticks For Good?

by Jennifer Smith May 14, 2018

A natural anti-tick spray created by a Mahone Bay, N.S., woman got encouraging results from its first round of scientific tests at Acadia University. 

Lisa Ali created AtlanTick after her two sons got Lyme disease from ticks on the South Shore in 2016. She said the ticks were so small they didn't see them.  

"I wanted to protect them from getting Lyme disease again, but I didn't want to put DEET on their skin. I didn't want to put anything chemical on their skin," she said Friday.
She wanted a tick repellant that wasn't chemical-based, so she created her own with a mix of water, witch hazel, jojoba oil and other essential oils. But does it work?

Enter Nicoletta Faraone, a scientist at Acadia University's department of biology. With financial help from the Nova Scotia Productivity and Innovation voucher and a National Research Council grant, she got to work. 

She created a tick habitat and put the ticks on a dish with three circles. If they left the inner circle, that would mean AtlanTick didn't work.

But most turned back as soon as they hit the spray. 

"The results are pretty interesting because the AtlanTick body spray repelled about 75, 80 per cent of the tested ticks. These results were compared to DEET, which recorded 100 per cent of repellency. It's pretty encouraging, because we clearly saw a repellency effect," Faraone said. 

Ali can't hide her smile as the ticks turn back. She'd done a lot of research and wasn't surprised her spray worked. 

"It's very satisfying and it's reassuring," she said.

"Now I know for sure that the oils I mix together actually work and for people who do think of essential oils as kind of new-age-ish, this is a great way to show them that it does work."

Ali is working to get Health Canada approval to sell the product as a tick spray, though that will likely take another two years of tests. Faraone said they will test variations of the product in different situations. 

"For now we have data up to 10 minutes, so we want to see after one hour, after two hours and so on, and also we want to test on the skin to see if the tick is repelled or drops off."

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection humans get when they're bitten by an infected blacklegged tick. The government of Nova Scotia says only blacklegged ticks carry that bacteria, but not all blacklegged ticks carry it. 

Nova Scotia saw 1,020 cases of Lyme disease reported between 2002 and 2016. Tick populations are growing in the province, which means there are likely going to be more cases. 

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said currently the government recommends using DEET. 

"We don't have any information on this product to comment on its effectiveness," said his spokesperson, Tracy Barron.

In addition to using repellents, people can wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothing and tuck socks into pant legs to avoid ticks. The government also recommends checking yourself, pets and children for ticks after walking in grassy or wooded areas. 

If you find a tick, use tweezers to pull it straight out. 

Story shared from CBC Canada. Written by Jon Tattrie.

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith