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How to avoid ticks: 4 tips to follow

How to avoid ticks: 4 tips to follow

When you spend time outdoors, especially in Louisiana, you’re entering the domain of other creatures, including tiny, pesky, biting ticks.

Ticks can be found anywhere, from your backyard to your local park to your favorite hiking trail. They’re also active at all times of the day and, in warm, coastal climates like ours, can spread tickborne diseases all year long, so learning how to avoid ticks will help you spring, summer, fall and winter.

Ticks in our area carry a host of infectious diseases, including Lyme disease (carried by deer ticks) and Southern tick-associated rash illness (carried by Lonestar ticks). Both conditions cause a circular rash along with fever, joint pain, muscle pain and fatigue. While treatment with antibiotics can help, it’s best to prevent tick bites before they make you or your loved ones sick.

Unfortunately, ticks are very small, and that makes it easy for them to hide on clothing or in hair before biting and embedding themselves in the skin. To keep them away, try these four tips.

1. Use the right repellent

Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents offer effective protection against ticks. Natural repellents made from essential oils may feel safer than those made with chemicals, but their ingredients haven’t been tested for effectiveness and thus don’t guarantee protection. To repel ticks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using products that contain these ingredients:

  • 2-undecanone
  • DEET
  • IR3535
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
  • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • Picaridin

Avoid using insect repellants that contain OLE or PMD on children younger than age 3.

You can also buy clothing and gear treated with an insecticide called permethrin, which can kill ticks before they have a chance to bite you. You can also treat regular clothing with permethrin clothing sprays. Remember, however, that the protection these clothes and sprays provide wanes over time.

2. Take some common-sense steps to prevent tick bites

In addition to using repellent, you can prevent ticks from crawling on you with a few simple strategies.

  • Avoid tick-infested areas, which include tall grass, brush and wooded areas.
  • Check yourself, your kids and your pets for ticks regularly and immediately after being outdoors, especially in high-risk areas.
  • Tuck your pant legs into your socks.
  • Wear light-colored clothing and long sleeves that cover your skin and easily reveal ticks that are climbing on you.

Protecting your pets isn’t as easy, but checking them thoroughly after they’ve been outside can help you find ticks before they bite. It’s also worth discussing topical and oral tick prevention products with your vet.

3. Wash ticks off in the shower

Showering within two hours of coming indoors after being exposed to ticks can wash away ticks that haven’t bitten you or attached themselves to your body. In addition to effectively removing unattached ticks, taking a shower is also a great time for a tick check.

How to do a tick check

When checking yourself or others for ticks, check these spots:

  • In and around the hairline
  • In and around the ears
  • Under the arms
  • Inside the belly button
  • Around the waist
  • Between the legs
  • Backs of the knees

4. Remove a tick with tweezers

If you find an attached tick, don’t panic. The best way to remove it is with a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Once it’s out, put the tick in some rubbing alcohol or flush it down the toilet. Don’t attempt to smash it with your fingers. Also, clean the tick bite well using soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

Watch out for symptoms, such as a rash or fever, for as long as 30 days after the bite. If any appear, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider.

Insects are common carriers of infectious diseases, and ticks are no exception. If you or someone in your family gets a tick bite, we can help. Schedule an appointment with the primary care providers at West Jefferson Medical Center.