Tips to Prevent Ticks

Spring is here and the bugs are back—it’s time to talk ticks.

We’re reaching the peak season for this persistent pest, and it’s likely you’ll encounter them as you spend more time outdoors.

Much like mosquitoes, ticks seek out warm-blooded animals as a food source, which unfortunately includes us. These tiny arachnids can be more than an inconvenience. Certain populations carry bacterial disease, which can be a health risk to those bitten.

But don’t let ticks scare you off from enjoying this gorgeous spring season outdoors. There are plenty of ways you can protect yourself against these creepy critters.

Before you go

Get covered:

Ticks usually hang out at grass or shrub-level, waiting for an animal to brush up against the foliage. Minimize the risk of a tick finding your skin in this area by keeping the waist-down completely covered.

  • Wear long pants, sleeves, and socks that are light in color—this makes the ticks easier to spot quickly.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks (or wear insect gaiters), and tuck in your shirt.
Spray down:

Treat your clothing and gear with spray repellents targeted for ticks.

  • EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)-registered options include: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), and 2-undecanone. Learn more about the repellent types and their recommended uses here.
Protect your canine-companions:

Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and some tick-borne diseases. They may also bring ticks into your home.

  • Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick prevention methods for your dog.

On the Trail

Stay centered:

Walk along the center of trails and avoid contact with shrubs or brush. Keep your dog leashed to keep them from walking off-trail and avoiding contact with tick habitat as well.

Keep tabs:

Get in the habit of inspecting your clothes periodically during your outing, especially while in shaded areas with dense foliage. Be sure to check potential tick hiding spots on your gear and clothes, like pockets, cuffs, rolled sleeves, and under hats.

Inspect itches:

While subtle, you can often feel a tick crawling on you. Be aware of any tickling/itchy sensations on your skin or hair and check for any unexpected bumps—especially in spots like the back of the knees and neck.

After you go

Do a final tick check:

Ticks will target areas where the skin is softest (behind ears, belly, around waist, underarms, etc.). If you’re a family outing the kids or dog, make sure to check them, too!

Freshen up:

Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find crawling ticks before they bite.

Toss in the laundry:

Once home, dry clothing on the highest temperature setting at least 10 minutes to kill any possible hitchhiking ticks. If any clothes are damp, dry thoroughly on the tumble setting on high for an extra 10 minutes.

If you find a tick

If it’s crawling on your skin:

Don’t panic—just brush it off.

  • If it’s outside, the easiest way is to flick it off—just make sure nobody’s in its trajectory.
  • If you find the little guy in the car or indoors, tape can be handy. Stick the tape on the tick, fold it around so it’s trapped, and throw it out. That way, you won’t have any surprise reunions later on.
If it’s bitten your skin and is attached:

Again, don’t panic. The best way to remove an attached tick is with a precise clean pair of tweezers.

  • Sterilize the area, and grasp the tick with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible.
  • Pull straight up taking care to not to twist or yank—you want to remove it in one go and intact.
  • If you are able to, place the tick on a strip of tape or in a ziplock bag so that you can ID the species.
  • In the following weeks, keep a close eye on the bite and watch for the common symptoms.

Ticks can be scary, but by staying alert and planning ahead, you can trek through tick season with confidence.