Prevention is the best medicine for tick-borne disease! A few simple steps and you can greatly minimize your risk of tick exposure and its associated health issues. The outdoors is meant to be enjoyed not feared, so be responsible, respect the environment you're visiting and have fun!
The spring, summer and fall are the apex of tick season, but ticks are active all year-round, can survive through winter and are active as long as it’s above freezing. So all seasons require being mindful of the risks of tick exposure. Prevention is easy and with our simple checklist tick bites won't be a constant worry.
Be careful in tick habitat. These areas include:
- Leaf litter under trees and leaf piles.
- Long grass and brush on the edge of paths and roadsides.
- Unmaintained trails.
- Stumps and fallen logs.
- Stone walls.
- The forests edge, where property meets wildlife habitat.
Take precautions when in tick habitat and after:
- Stick to well-maintained trails and recreational areas.
- Don't sit on the bare ground, fallen logs or stone walls. Use a tarp or tightly-woven blanket that has been sprayed/treated with Permethrin.
- Wear light-colored clothing. Items made of tightly-woven fiber are the best. If you're able to also wear long sleeves with long pants tucked into socks. This is not always convenient, particularly in very hot weather, but adds extra protection. Shorts are not recommended. The main purpose is to provide a better line of sight to catch ticks before they can bite not as an impermeable barrier, so applying repellent is still advised
- Treat your clothing with Permethrin. This insecticide is known to both repel and kill insects (ticks included). It is not meant for use on the skin! Make sure to follow product instructions and apply carefully. Lay your chosen pieces of clothing outdoors and spray until soaked through in a well-ventilated area. Make sure to spray shoes and socks as well. Let dry. Once the spray dries it's odorless. Reapply every 2 to 6 weeks. You can buy pretreated clothing at many sporting goods stores or you can send your clothing to be treated by Insect Shield for $10 per item. Professionally treated clothing maintains tick protection for at least 70 washes.
- Spray with a tick repellent. The type of spray you use is a personal decision. For those neutral on synthetic products there are many such as those containing DEET, readily available at most stores, as well as a host of natural products such as essentials oils, lotions and sprays designed to deter ticks. Consumer reports show that products with 8% Picaridin/20 % lemon are just as effective as DEET. Many authorities suggest using a repellent with a DEET concentration of under 10% for children. As with any product follow the label instructions and apply carefully.
- Use a pet-safe tick deterrent on pets. This is especially important for indoor/outdoor pets.
- Invest in a good tick remover. In a pinch professional fine-point tweezers are a good option but not always useful against nymph stage ticks (the size of a poppy seed) and can lead to the tick becoming damaged in the removal process.
- Warning for products labeled "tick twister": Do not twist to remove tick! Slide as close to skin against tick mouth parts as possible and pull up. Twisting can damage the tick and lead to the release of pathogens into your bloodstream. The best products are those designed to remove all stages of the tick life cycle (nymph to adult).
- Do tick checks during outdoor activity and after. A quick once-over of the body with a lint roller (the sticky kind) is very effective at catching unattached ticks. Make sure to check the more private areas of the body once home. Ticks tend to prefer these warm moist areas.
- Remove your exposed clothing as soon as possible after leaving tick habitat.
- Place used clothing in a dryer for 30 minutes on hot. Do this whether you wash them first or not. The dry heat will kill ticks, the washer will not. If you don't have access to a dryer, place clothing in a plastic bag, spray with Permethrin and tightly close.
- Shower immediately after getting home. This is an excellent time to do a tick check as you are more mindful of your body when bathing. Do not put back on tick-exposed clothing until they have been treated either in the dryer or with Permethrin.
- Check your pets whenever they have been in tick habitat. Allowing your indoor/outdoor pets to sleep on couches or bedding may increase your risk of tick exposure.
- Recheck and check bedding. For the next few days make sure to check bedding for ticks that may have dropped off. Rechecking yourself is also suggested at least a few times.
- Be mindful and observant. If you find an attached tick or notice a bite, follow the steps outlined in our tick bite protocol below. All tick species carry disease! Don't ignore a bite just because it's not from a deer tick.
You can download and print this list from the link below:
For those of you who have indoor/outdoor pets this can be an invisible risk, particularly on animals not treated with flea/tick deterrents. Even with such deterrents this does not afford the luxury of not doing tick checks. Many pet prevention products do kill ticks that have bitten your pet, but end up giving a ride-a-long to ticks who are using your pet as public transportation. It seems unlikely to get infected with Lyme inside your home, but it happens. Many pets have free range of their homes, including the furniture (particularly beds), and if precautions are ignored this can add unnecessary risk. Let's not forget that pets can also become infected with tick-borne illnesses and suffer if infected. For you and your pets safety and well-being it's beneficial to keep this in mind.