If you live in an area where the weather is getting warmer and you're spending more time outside, it's time to start looking out for ticks. And if you live somewhere that's warm for most or all of the year, ticks should be a constant consideration.
As tiny as they are, ticks pose big health risks for people and animals alike. These bloodsucking parasites aren't just pests; they can also transmit serious illnesses like Lyme disease. Your best line of defense is knowing how to avoid ticks, but if you come into contact with one, there are still some steps you can take to reduce their harm. These tips can help you better protect yourself and your family the next time you're heading outdoors.
Prevent Tick Bites
Ticks are generally found in humid wooded and grassy environments, hiding among leaves and low shrubs. When hiking, biking, or walking in these areas, stay in sunny, open regions and stick to the middle of trails where you're less likely to encounter them.
Dressing appropriately is also important. Wear light-colored clothing that makes it easier to spot ticks, and make sure that your clothes are long enough to cover your arms and legs. Also, tuck your pant legs into your socks for extra protection.
Tick repellent is another option. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a repellent that contains the chemical DEET, but be sure to consult with a doctor before applying it to children, infants, or pregnant women.
How to Check for Ticks
Knowing how to avoid ticks comes down to checking yourself out every time you come back from tick-friendly areas. As soon as you get indoors, perform a thorough check on your family, and have someone do the same for you. Check the obvious spots such as the arms, legs, and torso, but don't forget to search behind the ears, in hair, and in between fingers and toes. Also, be sure to take a shower as soon as possible to help wash off any ticks that aren't fully attached to the body.
Remember to perform a tick check on your outdoor pets, too. Connect with your veterinarian to determine the best preventive medicine for your animals.
What to Do If You Find a Tick
Removing a tick is a simple procedure, according to the CDC. Use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to get as close to the skin as possible, gently extract the tick using even pressure, then wash the area with soap and water.
Keep an eye on the affected area after the tick has been removed. If you develop a red rash or experience flu-like symptoms, seek medical treatment right away, as this could point to an illness such as Lyme disease. The good news, according to the CDC, is a few weeks of taking antibiotics is usually successful in treating Lyme disease.
Don't panic if you find a tick on yourself or a family member. As long as you remove the tick quickly and properly, the chances of avoiding illness are greatly reduced. In the end, it comes down to consistently checking yourself and your family when you get back from any outdoor activities. Be vigilant, and you won't have to worry.