woman applies DEET to prevent tick bites

HEAL

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. Avoid where ticks are found

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. Shower and check body for ticks

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. Tumble dry clothing

Wear light-colored long-sleeve shirts, pants, socks and shoes for the best protection. When you come indoors, put your clothes in the dryer on hot for 20 minutes or, if soiled, wash them in hot water first.

4. Wear clothing treated with permethrin spray

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. Use bug repellent with DEET

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. Protect your pet from ticks

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. Treat yard for ticks

There are a few ways for you to create a tick-safe yard that discourages ticks from hanging out here:

  • Clear tall grass and weeds and mow and rake frequently.
  • If you live near a wooded area, lay wood chips or gravel between your lawn and the woods to act as a barrier.
  • Stack firewood neatly in a dry area.
  • Keep playground equipment and outdoor furniture away from the trees and in the sun.
  • 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.

How to remove a tick

If you do see an attached tick, follow these steps to remove it carefully:

  1. Use a pair of tweezers to grab it behind the embedded head as close to the skin as possible.
  2. Pull straight back. Avoid twisting, crushing or squeezing the tick. Be careful not to leave the head embedded in the skin.
  3. Use soap and water to clean the area and your hands.

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. Don't ignore symptoms of tick-borne illness, including rash and infection, and seek medical help if you experience either.

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