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Seven tips to keep you tick-free

Ticks are more than a nuisance. They can carry and spread illness, commonly Lyme disease, and lesser known diseases like babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. In the case of ticks, your best defense is avoidance. Here are seven tips to keep you tick-free:

  1. Ticks hang out in shady, moist woods or grassy areas and are just waiting for someone to walk by so they can grab on. Stay on trails and paths, and avoid hiking through tall grass or leaf litter.
  2. Take a shower or bath within two hours of coming inside, then do a tick check. Use a mirror for hard to see places like your back or have someone else look. Check places like your hair, in and around ears, belly button and under arms. Be sure to check kids and pets, too.
  3. Put your clothes in the dryer on hot for 20 minutes or, if soiled, wash them in hot water first.
  4. For the best tick protection, long-sleeve shirts, pants, socks and shoes are best. If you work in or frequently visit tick-infested areas, you may want to purchase clothing that has been treated with permethrin, a non-toxic chemical that kills ticks. If you spray your clothing with permethrin, the effectiveness usually lasts through three washings. For clothing that has been professional treated with permethrin, the effects will last longer.
  5. Cover your exposed skin with an insect repellent containing 20 to 30 percent DEET, which protects you for several hours. Lower concentrations of DEET only protect against pesky mosquitoes.
  6. You may have avoided the tick-invested grass, but Fido didn't. Ticks can hitch a ride with your dog and move to you. Consider a tick-preventive treatment or collar for your pet that likes the great outdoors.
  7. Create a tick-safe yard.
    1. Clear tall grass and weeds and mow and rake frequently.
    2. If you live near a wooded area, lay wood chips or gravel between your lawn and the woods to act as a barrier.
    3. Stack firewood neatly in a dry area.
    4. Keep playground equipment and outdoor furniture away from the trees and in the sun.
    5. You can also use pesticides, but be sure to check on the rules and regulations of your neighborhood before spraying, and be aware of the environmental impacts.

If you do see an attached tick, remove it carefully with a pair of tweezers. Grab it behind the embedded head as close to the skin as possible and pull straight back. It usually takes time for a disease to be transmitted, so if a tick is removed within 12 to 24 hours, you should be safe. Watch for signs of infection or rash, and seek medical help if you experience either symptom.

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