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January 3, 2001

Garlic as a Tick Repellent—Reply

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2001;285(1):41-42. doi:10.1001/jama.285.1.39

In Reply: In response to Dr McHugh, our study specifically assessed the effectiveness of garlic as a repellent for tick bites. We did not measure its effectiveness for other arthropods or insects, nor did we compare it with other repellents. We choose military personnel because their behavior is relatively consistent.

Both McHugh and Dr Tunón point out that there are other effective insecticides and repellents. However, the adverse effects of DEET and permethrin are a subject of recurrent debate. Swedish regulations concerning the use of these products are very strict, for permethrin because of toxicity in aquatic organisms1 and for DEET because of studies showing adverse effects in humans.2,3 Thus, Swedish troops cannot use permethrin- or DEET-treated uniforms. In Sweden, garlic might be considered as an alternative to other repellents for people staying in tick endemic areas. Of course, treatment of clothes with permethrin guarantees a much higher level of protection as long as the clothing are worn. Garlic should certainly not be substituted for more effective protective measurements in areas that are endemic to other vector borne diseases, such as malaria.

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