It’s summertime and that means it is tick season. While tick bites are usually harmless, they can carry diseases, such as Lyme disease. In the United States, Lyme disease is most often found in the East Coast, North Central states and in Northern California. Deer ticks and black legged ticks can carry Lyme disease. These ticks are normally found in woody or grassy areas, however, they can be found in cities as well.
If you have a tick bite and are in an area where Lyme disease is common, you should talk with your doctor. Early antibiotic treatment can often prevent further problems from developing. The initial signs of Lyme disease are a bulls-eye rash around the site of the bite and flu-like symptoms which usually occur about a month after the bite. Symptoms sometimes go away but health problems can still develop later.
Preventing Tick Bites
- Ticks are most commonly found in wooded, grassy or bushy areas. When walking in these types of areas wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, closed toe shoes and hats. Wear light colored clothing so it is easier to spot a tick.
- Keep your shirt tucked into your pants and your pants tucked into your socks or boots. .
- If walking on a trail, stay in the middle of the trail and avoid walking directly in grass or brush.
- Use insect repellant that contains at least 20 percent of DEET on any exposed skin. Apply insect repellant when you are walking in the woods, in grassy areas, doing yard work, raking or moving leaves. Avoid your eyes, nose and mouth when applying repellant.
- Keep a walking stick with you when walking in the woods. You can use the stick to tap the brush or grass before walking through it. This can help to knock off ticks.
- Be aware of high-tick areas. If you notice several ticks on your clothing, brush them off and retreat from that area.
- Apply repellant containing permethrin to your clothes, the top of your shoes or boots and exposed areas of socks. When applying it directly to clothes it should remain even after a few washes. Retreat every few washes. This type of repellant should not be applied directly to your skin. If you are outdoors in woody areas often, consider purchasing pre-treated clothing which lasts for up to 70 washes.
- After you come inside, you should take a bath or shower. This should remove unattached ticks.
- Stand in front of a full length mirror to check all parts of your body. Be sure to check under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the legs and in your hair.
- If you don’t have a full length mirror, take turns with someone else. Check in hard-to-see places for him or her and then switch.
- Put clothes in a dryer on high heat for about an hour to kill any ticks that might be on your clothing.
- Don’t forget to check any pets before they come indoors. Ticks can come into your home on your pets and then transfer to you or your children. Talk to your veterinarian about tick prevention treatments for your pets.
Removing a Tick
- Use fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Remove with an outward motion. Don’t apply too much pressure as you can force the tick’s stomach contents into the bite.
- Once you remove the tick, wash the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, iodine, soap and water or a topical antibiotic.
Once you have removed a tick, note the date on your calendar. Watch for early signs of Lyme disease such as a rash, fever or flu-like symptoms. These usually show up about a month after a tick bite. If you note the date on your calendar, it is easier to match the symptoms with the tick bite. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.
“Avoid Bug Bites,” Updated 2013, May 1, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“Preventing Tick Bites,” Updated 2014, April 325, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention