Spring brings an opportunity to spend more time outdoors, but also increases our exposure to tick bites and infection by some of the diseases ticks carry. Taking some precautions to reduce risks of exposure and infection from ticks can make your outdoor activities more safe and enjoyable. Ticks can be found in almost any location that has animals and vegetation, so completely avoiding ticks is very difficult. There are some practices that will help you prevent ticks from biting and passing disease organisms to you.
Here are several suggestions:
- Wear light-colored clothing that makes it easier to see ticks and remove them before they get to bare skin.
- Tuck in shirt-tails, tuck pants into boots or socks or use "tick gators" that are essentially a legging that covers where your pants and socks or boots meet.
- Wearing a hat is another good precautionary measure.
- Treat bare skin with repellants containing 20 to 30% DEET. Always read and follow label directions!
- Treat clothing (not skin! Follow label directions) with repellants containing permethrin prior to entering areas with ticks. Once dried on the clothing, permethrin can still be effective after several washes.
- Upon your return, inspect clothing for any ticks. Tumbling clothes in a hot drier for an hour will kill ticks. Shorter times may be effective if the clothes are not wet.
- Wash up after visiting tick-infested areas and do a body-check for any ticks.
If you find a tick attached, remove it by using tweezers or a tick removal tool to grasp it as near to the skin as possible and pulling straight out. DO NOT use hot match-heads or needles, nail polish, gasoline or similar techniques. Ticks that are removed shortly after they attach may not have the opportunity to pass disease organisms to you, so quick detection and removal are good prevention methods.
If you experience a rash, fever, chills, aching, or other unusual symptoms after a tick bite or exposure to tick-infested areas, see your physician immediately. Most tick-borne diseases can be effectively treated with early detection.
Enjoy the outdoors by taking precautions to reduce your risks.
Purdue has an informational web page on ticks at Purdue Medical Entomology.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has an information site on ticks and tick diseases.
Lenny Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC)
Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University