Preventing tick bites
Tick exposure can occur year-round, but ticks are most active during warmer months (April-September).
Know which ticks are most common in your area.
Before You Go Outdoors
Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellentsl containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
Always follow product instructions
Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
Avoid Contact with Ticks
Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
Walk in the center of trails.
After You Come Indoors
Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.
Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
Create a Tick-safe Zone to Reduce Black-legged Ticks in the Yard
Here are some simple landscaping techniques that can help reduce black-legged tick populations:
Remove leaf litter.
Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
Mow the lawn frequently.
Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents).
Keep playground equipment, decks/patios away from yard edges & trees.
Discourage unwelcome animals (such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs) from entering your yard by constructing fences.
Remove old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.
If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic—the key is to remove the tick as soon as possible. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers work very well.
How to remove a tick
1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.
The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses are:
Fever/chills: With all tick-borne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
Aches and pains: Tick-borne disease symptoms include headache, fatigue, and muscle aches.
With Lyme disease you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.
Tick-borne diseases can result in mild symptoms treatable at home to severe infections requiring hospitalization. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult to diagnose. However, early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications. So, see your Health Care Provider immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms described here.
Beth Ewing, RN, MSN, CNM, WHNP-BC Parish Nurse