Even in cold weather, ticks remain active until temperatures drop below freezing. They go into a dormant state until temperatures rise again. Tick bite prevention must be a priority throughout the year. All ticks can be hosts to multiple bacteria. If an infected tick bites you, you are at risk of acquiring the infection.
By implementing specific prevention measures, you can avoid months and years of painful symptoms that sometimes go untreated due to misdiagnosis. Below are some effective tick bite prevention tips.
Understand the Importance of Tick Bite Prevention
A tick bite is small, but the effects can be painful and interfere with daily functioning if left untreated. Lyme disease is one of the most well-known tick-borne diseases, which advances in stages with worsening symptoms.
Common symptoms of tick-borne infections like Lyme disease include:
- Joint pain
- Stiff neck
- Tingling in feet or hands
Understand Tick Habitats
Knowing where ticks live can help you avoid them. Ticks like to live in tall grass, leaf litter, and brushy, weedy areas. Ticks live on the ground and attach to animals or humans that pass by them. If you spend time outdoors, evaluate the habitat for potential tick encounters.
If hiking in the woods, stay on the walking path and away from thick brush and vegetation. Keep your lawn manicured and decluttered so it doesn’t attract ticks. Add fencing or other barriers to prevent unwanted wildlife that can transport ticks to your yard.
Know How to Identify Ticks
There are 90 tick species in the United States and around 850 worldwide. One of the best ways to protect yourself from tick-borne infections is by identifying the ticks that cause problems. For example, the black-legged tick, also called a deer tick, is associated with Lyme disease. Deer ticks range in size from a poppy seed to a sesame seed.
It is also helpful if you know the insects that are often mistaken for ticks. Examples include the weevil, carpet beetles, bed bugs, crab louse, immature stink bugs, bird and clover mites, and some aphids.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
When ticks attach to the human body, they begin searching for a spot where they will break the skin’s surface and embed themselves under it. Ticks may search the body for hours and even days before finding the perfect place.
Wearing protective clothing to cover your skin when spending time outdoors in places where ticks may live puts an extra barrier between you and the tick. If a tick attaches to your clothing and you remove the clothing before the tick reaches your body, you have prevented a potential bite and infection.
Protective clothing includes the following:
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Long pants
- Closed-toe shoes
- Hats or caps
A few clothing tips include wearing light-colored pants and shirts so you can see ticks and bugs easier and tucking pant legs into socks.
Treat Clothing with Repellent
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registers specific insect repellents that are safe for your clothing and body. They include:
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE)
- Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
- Permethrin (on clothing only)
Protect Your Pets
If you have pets that spend time outdoors, ticks can attach to them. Your pets can then bring ticks into your home, making you susceptible to them. Many of the tick repellents safe for humans are also safe for pets. Spray them before they go outside.
Each time your pet returns from the outdoors, especially if they spend time in tick-preferred habitats, complete a tick check. Remove any ticks you find immediately. Specific places ticks like to hide on animals include:
- Feet, between the toes
- Under the legs
- On the lips
- Around the eyes
- Inside the ears
- Under the tail
- Near the anus
Brushing and bathing your pet can help remove ticks.
Tips for When You Return from the Outdoors
Checking your pets’ bodies for ticks is a must, and so is checking your body for ticks. When you return home from being outdoors, there are several steps you can take to prevent a tick bite further. The first step is to change out of the clothing you wore outside and put on new, clean clothing. If you can’t change clothes, do a thorough tick-check by looking and feeling for ticks on your clothing.
You can also put your clothes in the dryer and spin them on high heat for about ten minutes. Washing your clothes, then drying them, is also a good idea. However, ensure you wash them in high heat temperatures because ticks do not die in warm or cold temperatures.
When possible, take a shower and conduct a body check for ticks. If you can’t shower, still do a full-body check. Specific locations to check include the following:
- Inside and outside of ears
- Belly button
- Behind the knees
- Genital and private areas
- Hair and scalp
Steps to Take If You Find a Tick
Don’t panic if you find a tick on your clothing or body. Instead, use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible to get the tick’s head and body, which can be embedded under the skin. Once the tick is out, clean the area with rubbing alcohol, soap, and water. Flush the tick or put it in an airtight container, like a Ziploc bag.
Monitor the tick bite area over the next few weeks. Also, search your body for red rashes that may or may not look like a bullseye. Not everyone experiences a rash, so paying attention to any symptoms that appear days and weeks after finding the tick on your body is critical.
The moment you notice any symptoms, contact your doctor. Seeing a Lyme-literate doctor is preferred since they have advanced testing options. Consider traveling outside the United States, Canada, and the UK to Mexico to meet with a top clinic, Lyme Mexico. We can discuss your symptoms and the alternative treatment options that work.