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Tips and Tricks to Keep You Tick-Free This Summer

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Tips and Tricks to Help Keep You Tick-Free This Summer

The North Country’s summer months include beautiful weather, plenty of outdoor activities, and the need to stay vigilant and take extra precautions to prevent tick bites and avoid tick-borne diseases.

What are Ticks and Where Do They Live?

Ticks are related to spiders and have eight legs. They have flat, oval bodies that swell when they eat. They are very small — even an adult tick is only about the size of an apple seed — which makes them difficult to spot. They feed on the blood of all kinds of animals and live throughout the world and are typically found outdoors, in wooded or grassy areas.

A few species of tick bite and can transmit diseases to humans.

How Do I Prevent Tick Bites?

Tick exposure can occur year-round, but ticks are most active during warmer months. While outdoors, it’s important to learn and follow some tips and tricks.

For People

  • 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 may bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
  • Dress protectively: Wear light-colored clothes, which make it easier to spot ticks. Wear long pants tucked into your socks while hiking through tick-friendly areas. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, boots or hiking shoes, and a hat. You can also use tick-repellant products, like 0.5% permethrin spray to treat your clothing or camping gear before a trip outdoors.
  • Create a Tick-safe zone in your yard: Remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around your home and at the edge of your lawn. Place a 3-foot-wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and wooded areas, to restrict tick migration into your yard. Mow your lawn frequently and keep wood stacked neatly and in a dry area. Discourage unwelcome animals (deer, raccoons, etc.) from entering your yard by constructing fences.
  • After you come indoors: check your clothing and tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
  • Check your body for ticks: conduct a full body check after returning from tick-friendly areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Make sure you check: underarms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around the waist.
  • Take a shower: Showering within 2 hours of being outside has been shown to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases. Showering may also help wash off unattached ticks. It is also a good opportunity to do a tick check.
  • Examine gear and pets: Ticks can ride into your home on clothing and pets before attaching to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.

For Pets

Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Vaccines are not available for most of the tick-borne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. For these reasons it’s important to use a tick preventative product on your dog.

Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tick-borne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick.

Talk to your veterinarian about:

  • The best tick prevention products for your dog
  • Tick-borne diseases in your area

To further reduce the chances that a tick bite will make your dog sick:

  • Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors
  • If you find a tick on your pet, remove it right away
  • Reduce tick habitat in your yard

I Found a Tick, What Now?

If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic. It’s important to remove the tick as soon as possible. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a set of fine-tipped tweezers work very well. Be sure to clean them with alcohol before use.

Using the tweezers, grab the tick as close to your skin as possible. Then pull it straight out with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick, as 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 them easily, leave them along and let the skin heal.

After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

Once I’ve Had A Tick Bite, What Should I Look For?

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria and transmitted though the bite of infected Blacklegged Ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a particular skin rash called erythema migrans. The rash is red and patchy or can look like a bull’s eye with colors ranging from red to purple. The rashes can occur anywhere between 3 and 33 days after a tick bite.

You can also develop flu-like symptoms such as headache, aches and pains, muscle aches, joint pain, fevers and chills. Because of this, it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on with your body for several weeks after having a tick bite.

When Should I Contact My Health Care Provider?

If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, you should see your health care provider. Be sure to tell them about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

If you aren’t able to remove the tick you should call your health care provider and have it removed. If the tick has been attached to you for at least 36 hours you should call your provider because you may need antibiotics.