Few things freak me out as much as ticks. Something about their bloodsucking disease-carrying creepy little bodies send shivers up my spine, and the sight of a single tick causes me to search myself for hours and jump through the roof every time I feel something on my skin. Fortunately, they don’t seem to like me all that much either; Sean and I will come back from a jaunt in the woods, and he’ll be covered with ticks, while I often don’t have any on me. I’m hoping the baby takes after me on that count, because the thought of digging ticks out of tender baby skin has me squirming in my seat.
Unfortunately, this warm winter we’ve had may bring us one of the worst tick years we’ve seen in a while. With ticks moving further north and lyme disease and rocky mountain spotted fever becoming more prevalent, it is inevitable that those of us who like to wander around in the bushes will have to deal with these nasty little crawlies. So what do we do?
1. Know where to expect to find ticks
Ticks are often found in wooded or grassy areas, particularly where there is overgrown vegetation or leaf litter. This is also precisely the habitat that kids and pets love to explore, so knowing that there is a high likelihood of encountering ticks on a favorite hike or trip to a park lets you prepare ahead of time. Try to keep kids on the hiking trail and out of the brush during tick season to minimize exposure.
2. Dress appropriately when heading into tick territory
Wear long sleeves and long pants, as well as thick socks when going into a tick-heavy area. There are a number of lightweight fabrics on the market which make this more realistic in the summertime.
3. Use tick repellent
Products containing 20% DEET are effective tick repellents, and can be applied to clothing or skin, though we tend to only put it on clothing to minimize chemical exposure. Be sure to carefully avoid the hands, eyes and mouth, and follow all product directions. Permethrin is also effective, but should not be used on skin.
4. Check carefully for ticks after each outing
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends immediately checking the following places:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside belly button
- Back of the knees
- Under the arms
- In and around the hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
Taking a shower within two hours after returning from an outing where you may have encountered ticks will decrease the likelihood of attachment and disease transmission.
5. Immediately remove all ticks
Use tweezers to firmly grasp the tick close to the skin, and pull upward with steady pressure. Wash the area with soap and water, and watch the area for swelling or rash.
Ticks may be unavoidable, but with a little vigilance you can manage to stay ahead of them.