As springtime approaches, you’ll probably find yourself getting more eager to spend time in the great outdoors. However, more time in nature increases your risk of getting bitten by a tick – which could lead to you contracting Lyme disease. Here’s the info you’ll need to know about when tick season starts and what you can do to protect yourself against tick bites and Lyme disease.
First, it’s important to remember that young deer ticks (also known as nymphs) are typically the most active during late spring to summer (around mid-May to mid-August). Although these ticks are small in stature, they can cause just as much damage as full-grown ticks, since they can still be Lyme carriers. Second, adult ticks can be active for a much longer range of time during the year – generally from March to mid-May and then again in mid-August to November.
You’ll be the safest from ticks during cold months (although it is still possible to get bitten during this time). Ticks are typically dormant when the temperature reaches below 35 degrees. You also won’t be exposed to these creatures when the ground is completely covered with snow or when soil temperatures drop below 44 degrees. However, you should remember that areas in the U.S. that have more mild winters (without completely frozen climates) can still have active tick populations. One recent study determined that deer ticks have even been shown to use leaves to insulate themselves during colder months – making them a threat even when temperatures are on the cooler side.
So, even during the off-months of tick season, you’ll want to ensure you’re steering clear of ticks. Here are some ways to keep yourself from getting bitten.
1. Wear appropriate clothing
If you’re going to be spending time outdoors, particularly during tick season, it’s crucial for you to protect yourself against ticks that will want to attach to your skin. Remember to wear long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes, and consider tucking your socks into your pants for even more protection. It’s also not a bad idea to wear a hat to protect your scalp. One other tip is to wear light-colored clothing so that you’ll be better able to see if a tick has latched onto your clothes.
2. Steer clear of tick-heavy areas in nature
Ticks are more likely to be found in overgrown, brushy areas or off in the woods. It’s always a good idea to stick to any clearly marked paths or roads when you go for walks or hikes. Steering clear of leaf piles and fallen logs will also help you lessen your chances of getting bitten by a tick.
3. Keep your distance from animals
Because animals are carriers for ticks (which are carriers for Lyme disease!), you’ll want to stay as far away from them as you can. This warning includes large animals like deer and small ones like mice. Even if you really enjoy wildlife, if you want to stay tick-free, you’ll want to avoid getting near all furry-legged friends.
4. Use pesticides
For added protection, some people use a tick pesticide called permethrin that is applied directly to your clothing. You’ll have the peace of mind that ticks won’t be attracted to your clothing, and it’s also convenient since you only have to reapply it every couple of months. If you do have some skin showing (like your hands, face, etc.), you can apply insect repellent directly to your skin to make sure the ticks truly stay away. Just don’t forget to read the instructions on the bottle so you know exactly how long it will work for and when you’ll need to reapply for maximum protection.
5. Do thorough checks
As soon as you come in from spending time outdoors (especially during tick season), it’s critical for you to do a thorough check of your body to make sure that no ticks have attached to your skin. If a tick has bitten you, you might notice a small, dark speck on your skin. However, because the ticks can sometimes be very small, you might miss spotting one. That’s why it’s helpful to also feel around on your skin for any places that ticks attached that you aren’t easily able to see. This includes many hard-to-see areas on your skin that you should remember to check (such as the backs of your knees, behind your ears, or your scalp).
6. Remove any ticks you find
If you do find a tick on your skin, make sure to remove it as quickly as possible. You can do this with tweezers or with special tick removal kits that are available in stores. Make sure to grab the tick between the head and your skin and firmly pull away. If you’d like to get the tick tested to see if it was a carrier for Lyme, you always have the option with Infectolab.
7. Consult a doctor if you think you’ve been bitten
It doesn’t hurt to visit your doctor if you think you’ve been bitten by a tick. They can help evaluate any symptoms you might be having and run some tests to get you on an appropriate treatment regimen. Even if you think your symptoms are mild (or caused by something else), it never hurts to get checked out anyway.
Although tick season means your risk of contracting Lyme disease increases, it’s still a good idea to protect yourself the whole year round. Follow these tips to keep yourself safe from ticks no matter what time of year it is!