Most often, ticks live in wooded and brushy areas. If you walk through their habitat (or if your pet does), a tick may latch onto you, often migrating toward the warmer areas of one’s body to feed. Depending on the type of tick you encounter, a bite can transmit a variety of diseases.
For example, the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease, is most often transmitted by the black-legged deer tick. To avoid tick-borne diseases and conditions, like Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis and Lyme, read more about our five must-know tips for preventing tick bites while you’re enjoying the great outdoors.
Dress for Success
The clothing you wear can keep you safe from all sorts of bug bites — and tick bites are no exception. If you’re hiking in the woods or spending time in tall grass, be sure to wear closed-toed shoes, long sleeves, and long pants. Of course, even with the proper attire, one can still find ticks on their body after enjoying the great outdoors.
Usually, ticks crawl onto your shoes or pant legs and, from there, then find their way to your skin. Tucking in your pant legs into your socks or wearing gaiters makes this task more difficult for ticks. But if you’re still worried, try wearing light-colored clothing so that you can spot any ticks before they latch onto your skin.
Use the Right Repellent
Insect repellents are generally effective against ticks. The most common type of bug spray is made from DEET, and prevents ticks from biting you. However, some evidence shows that ticks may travel across your skin until they find an untreated area.
If you need an extra dose of protection, experts note that permethrin-based repellents are highly effective against ticks as well. Better yet, you can actually buy clothing infused with permethrin. If you’re feeling handy, you can buy a permethrin spray designed for use on apparel to infuse your favorite hiking gear with some additional protection.
Avoid Tick Infested Areas When Possible
The surest way to avoid tick bites? Don’t expose yourself to the insects. This might mean avoiding dense woods, brush, and tall grass. And, perhaps surprisingly, this may require a little extra sun exposure: ticks actually prefer shaded areas.
Since ticks can’t fly or jump, they find victims by hanging onto the edges of tall grass (or other vegetation) and then hurry on over when someone brushes against them. Again, this means avoiding anything that’s overgrown, and sticking to well-marked — and clear-cut — trails when hiking.
Check Yourself and Remove Them Immediately
Once a tick hitches a ride on you, it’ll generally spend quite a bit of time scurrying around before finding a place to bite you. This means you’ll want to thoroughly check yourself after spending time in the woods or other habitats rife with ticks. The goal? Find the ticks before they latch on. Or, if they’ve already bitten you, remove them as soon as possible to prevent disease.
As mentioned earlier, ticks often gravitate to warmer parts of your body and crevices. Be sure to check your scalp, armpits, groin, and areas near hemlines. Additionally, showering within a couple of hours of being outdoors can help you spot them. If you do find a tick that’s already attached itself to you, remove it as soon as possible.
Before you get to work, however, you may want to identify the tick since certain ticks are linked to specific diseases. Several of the most common ticks in the United States include the following:
- American dog tick
- Black-legged tick
- Brown dog tick
- Gulf Coast tick
- Lone star tick
- Rocky Mountain wood tick
- Western black-legged tick
Never removed a tick before? We’ve got some tips. While some folks opt to go to a medical professional, ticks can be safely removed at home in most cases. Using sanitized tweezers — or, better yet, a tick key — grasp the tick at the head, right where it’s attached to your skin. It’s very important that you grasp the head; if you pull from the tick’s body, the head might stay attached and lead to infection. Once you’ve grasped the head, pull suddenly and directly away from the skin. Afterward, dress the wound as needed.
Keep Ticks Out of Your Home & Yard
Although ticks tend to live in the woods and in tall grass, they’re also known to hang out in overgrown vegetation, piles of leaves, and shrubs — especially if the shrubs are in a shaded area. As much as possible, keep your lawn free of these tick-attracting growths.
Moreover, be sure to check your pets for ticks; an unsuspecting dog could carry ticks into your home. Those ticks won’t just cause trouble for your pooch, but they might also jump ship and bite you. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian about methods of tick prevention.
- “Methods to Prevent Tick Bites and Lyme Disease” via National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- “Prevention of Tick-Borne Diseases: An Overview” via British Journal of General Practice, U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Preventing Mosquito and Tick Bites: A Canadian Update” via Pediatric Child Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Review of Methods to Prevent and Reduce the Risk of Lyme Disease” via National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- “Tick Removal” via National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH)