How to Prevent Tick Bites

This is a good time to remind outdoor enthusiasts about the dangers of ticks! While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, be extra careful in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

1) Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks
• Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

• Walk in the center of trails.

2) Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin
• Use repellents that contain 20 percent to 30 percent DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth.

• Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.

• Other repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may be found at http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/.

3) Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body
• Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.

• Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.

• 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 day packs.

• Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)

4) How to Remove a Tick
• If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.

Tom's News Item on Tick Removal 7-14 remove-a
Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible
and pull up with steady, even pressure.

• Use those fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

• 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.

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

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

• 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.

5) Follow-up
• If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

• If you had a tick bite, live in an area known for Lyme disease or have recently traveled to an area where it occurs, and observe any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention!

6) Early localized stage (three- to 30 days post-tick bite)
• Red, expanding rash called erythema migrans (EM).

• Fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.

Some people may get these general symptoms in addition to an EM rash, but in others, these general symptoms may be the only evidence of infection.

Some people get a small bump or redness at the site of a tick bite that goes away in one- to two days, like a mosquito bite. This is not a sign that you have Lyme disease. However, ticks can spread other organisms that may cause a different type of rash. For example, Southern Tick-associated Rash Illness (STARI) causes a rash with a very similar appearance.

7) Erythema migrans (EM) or “bull’s-eye” rash
• Rash occurs in approximately 70- to 80 percent of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of three- to 30 days (average is about seven days).

Seek medical attention for tick bites!
Seek medical attention for tick bites!

• Rash gradually expands over a period of several days, and can reach up to 12 inches (30 cm) across. Parts of the rash may clear as it enlarges, resulting in a “bull’s-eye” appearance.

• Rash usually feels warm to the touch, but is rarely itchy or painful.

• EM lesions may appear on any area of the body.

There are many more signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease … click here for all of them.

Preventing Ticks on Your Pets
• Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Vaccines are not available for all 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 preventive product on your dog.

• Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tick-borne disease may not appear for seven- to 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.

Steps to Reduce the Chances that a Tick will Transmit Disease to you or your Pets
• Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.

• If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away.

• Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam.

• Talk to your veterinarian about tick-borne diseases in your area.

• Reduce tick habitat in your yard.

• Talk with your veterinarian about using tick preventives on your pet.

Note: Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any insect acaricides or repellents to your cats without first consulting your veterinarian!

Kill Ticks on Dogs
A pesticide product that kills ticks is known as an acaricide. Acaricides that can be used on dogs include dusts, impregnated collars, sprays, or topical treatments. Some acaricides kill the tick on contact. Others may be absorbed into the bloodstream of a dog and kill ticks that attach and feed.

Examples of topically applied products (active ingredients):
• Fipronil
• Pyrethroids (permethrin, etc.)
• Amitraz

Repel Ticks on Dogs
A repellent product may prevent the tick from coming into contact with an animal at all or have anti-feeding effects once the tick comes into contact with the chemical, thus preventing a bite.
Examples of topically applied products (active ingredients):

• Pyrethroids (permethrin, etc.)

Note: Reference to any commercial entity or product or service in this article should not be construed as an endorsement by the Government, of the company, its products, or its services.

Have you, a family member or friend ever been bitten by a tick where it resulted in illness?– tell us about it. Do you take any extra preventative measures to keep ticks off of you or your pets?

(Image of deer ticks courtesy of Conley’s Home & Garden Pest Control)

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3 Responses to “How to Prevent Tick Bites”

  1. Dr Scott Keller

    In our area of the country Rocky Mountain fever and other tick borne illnesses are more common than Lyme disease. Any rash, fever or joint aches following a Tokyo bite should be followed by a physician

    Reply
  2. Julie Febres

    Excellent information, because Lyme Disease is spreading in MN. My daughter has it, and she wanted to know how to protect her kids, who are outdoors all day! Thank you!

    Julie a Febres, New Hope, MN

    Reply
  3. RANDY COLSTON

    I JUST WANTED YOU TO KNOW MY DAD WAS IN THE HOSPITAL ABOUT A MONTH AGO WITH A REAL BAD INFECTION FROM THE LONE STAR TICK. HE ALMOST DIED. THEY DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A TICK THAT CAUSED HIS SEVERE FEVER AND PAIN.
    I JUST HAPPENED TO MENTION ABOUT A TICK STUCK TO HIM A WEEK EARLIER AND A BLOODTEST FROM THE MAYO CLINIC CONFIRMED IT WAS EIRCHILOSOSIS OR CLOSE SPELLING THAT WAS POSITIVE FOR THE TEST. THE ODDS OF GETTING THIS BACTERIAL INFECTION WAS 3 OUT OF A MILLION PEOPLE THAT GOT TICK BITES ACTUALLY GOT THIS RARE THING.
    I CAUSED BAD PAIN IN HIS STOMACH WHERE THE TICK HAD BITTEN HIM AND FEVER. THEY THOUGHT IT WAS THE FLU, OR PNEAUMONIA, BUT AFTER LEAVING HOSPITAL DID THEY DISCOVER TICK WAS PROBLEM-ROUGH AND DEADLY–THANKS

    Reply