Prevent Tick Bites this Summer


We are now in that time of the year when ticks are most active and we are out among them spending more time outdoors - April to September. While we are familiar with tickborne illnesses like Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, there are more than a dozen tickborne diseases, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One such infection, Heartland Virus, has now claimed the first death in Oklahoma. Researchers believe the Lone Star Tick carries the virus. As of March of 2014, only eight Heartland Virus patients in Missouri and Tennessee had been identified. Help keep your family safe when spending time outdoors this summer with these tips.

Limit Exposure

Try to stay away from where ticks are most prevalent – wooded and bushy areas. Do not walk through areas with high grass or a lot of leaves on the ground, where ticks like to gather. When walking in heavily treed areas, walk in the center of the trail and try not to brush up against foliage. Wear hats and long sleeves to help shield ticks from failing onto you. When you return home, shower as soon as possible to help wash off any ticks or find ticks, which may be crawling on you.

Tick Repellants

Products with 20 to 30 percent DEET can help repel ticks if you will be outside for any period of time and can last up to several hours. Apply tick repellant to exposed skin. Parents need to be careful when applying on children, avoiding contact with hands, eyes and mouth. Be sure to wash your hands after applying.

You may also treat your clothing and shoes to help repel ticks with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. Treated clothes will help protect you from ticks for several washes. There are also pre-treated clothing available, which may last longer and well suited for long period of time spent outdoors like camping or hiking.

For a complete list of repellants registered by the EPA, click here. You can search for the repellant you need based on exposure time, active ingredients, mosquitoes and ticks, or by product or company name.

Removing a Tick

After returning from a suspected tick-infested area, search your entire body following a shower, preferable within two hours of coming inside. Check in the mirror for places you cannot easily see. Parents can help their children look for ticks, especially in areas they like to hide including under the arms, ears, belly button, behind the knees, and in their hair. Check other gear and clothing to make sure ticks are not hiding in a place you can’t see. They could then come into contact with you and attach after your return. Also, if you took any pets with you, make sure they are tick-free as well.

Wash and dry clothes on high heat for at least an hour helps to kill any remaining ticks.

The CDC offers these tips for removing a tick if one has attached to your skin.