Tick season has begun, and there’s no better time to learn how to protect yourself than right now. Ticks can harbor many bacteria, all of which can cause infections that can harm your health in a lasting way. Tick bites can cause conditions such as Lyme disease, which is a complex and challenging infection to treat. It can also cause permanent damage to many bodily systems, including the joints and the neurological system. Because of this, learning how to protect yourself against ticks is the best way to avoid Lyme and other tick-borne infections.
Why is protecting yourself from ticks important?
As mentioned above, ticks are harborers of disease. They can carry several infectious bacteria at a time, all of which can significantly harm human health. When a tick latches onto a human, they can stay attached for days, feeding on blood. While ticks take roughly 24–36 hours to transmit an infectious bacterium, it can be easy to miss a tick on your body if you’re not looking for it.
Along with Lyme disease, other tick-borne infections can include:
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)
- Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (HGA)
- Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI)
Each of these conditions comes with its own challenges and symptoms. Learning to avoid tick bites is the best way to avoid all these infections.
What keeps ticks off of you?
Keeping ticks away from you can be as easy as avoiding certain areas. Before you get out to enjoy the great outdoors, get to know the area and whether infected ticks have been spotted there. Ticks thrive best in wooded areas that are grassy or bushy. Because of this, they can be anywhere, including the path where you walk your dog, or even your own backyard or garden.
Ticks are opportunists; if they find a host, they will latch on to feed as quickly as possible. Their survival depends on it. Awareness of the possibility of ticks being around you is the first step in understanding how to avoid ticks in the woods and other areas.
Can ticks bite through clothes?
It would be tough for a tick to bite through clothing, but that doesn’t mean that having them attached to your outerwear and not your skin keeps you safe. If you don’t realize that there is a tick on your clothing, you may bring it into your home. While there, it has free rein to find a new host to feed on (which could be you, your children, or your pets). The good news is that there are several steps you can take to ensure you aren’t at risk of being bitten.
The first is choosing the proper clothing for your outing. Loose-fitting, lighter-colored clothes give you a better visual when searching for ticks. That said, your clothing should be tight at the ankles and wrists so that ticks cannot sneak into the openings.
If you’ve searched high and low, are wearing the proper attire, and still don’t see any ticks, you may still want to take extra precautions just in case. This involves putting your clothing in the dryer to tumble on low for roughly ten minutes on high heat after returning from a walk or hike. This will kill any ticks that hitched a ride home with you.
What is the best tick repellant for humans?
There are so many tick repellants to choose from that it can be hard to know when you’re making the right choice. Most of them will work well if you follow the instructions and understand that, although they are there to protect you, they do not offer 100% protection against ticks. You must still check your body and clothing for ticks following any outing into wooded or grassy areas.
When looking for tick repellants, you’ll want to focus on specific ingredients. DEET, which is found in many over-the-counter sprays and bug repellants, is an excellent option because it can help disguise you from ticks. The compounds in DEET mean bugs such as ticks cannot smell humans, thus causing them to look elsewhere for a food source.
Another good ingredient to look out for is picaridin. Picaridin is a synthetic compound that helps repel ticks and other insects because it resembles a natural compound found in plants. If ticks think you are a plant, they are less likely to pursue you!
You can also purchase tick-repellant socks, shirts, and other clothing for an added layer of protection. Some bug spray brands also have tick repellant for clothing that you can spray or apply to your clothes to keep ticks away from you.
How to prevent ticks on dogs
It can be much harder to protect your furry friends from ticks because they are closer to the ground and have fur to hide ticks that have latched on. That said, there are tick-repellant medications available for dogs, which can be found over the counter at pet stores and through your vet’s office.
When checking your pet for ticks, you will want to comb over their entire body, focusing heavily on specific areas such as:
- Between and under their front and hind legs
- Between their toes
- Around their eyes
- Under the collar
These areas are prime real estate for ticks to hide and feed for long periods, so it’s crucial to check thoroughly, find any attached ticks, and remove them immediately.
How to protect yourself from Lyme disease
Since ticks carry Lyme disease, the best way to protect yourself from infection is by taking all the necessary precautions before and after heading out to enjoy the great outdoors. If you do find a tick, you must remove it promptly with tweezers.
The proper steps to remove a tick from your body are as follows:
- Grasp or clamp down on the tick as close to your skin as you can get with fine-point tweezers
- Pull the tick upwards out of your skin, gently but with mild pressure
- Clean the area with rubbing alcohol, soap and water
- Send the tick off for inspection
Protecting yourself from tick bites takes a little effort, but it’s always well worth it to avoid a potential Lyme disease infection.