What precautions can people take to avoid being bitten?
Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to see, and socks over pants and long-sleeved shirts to prevent ticks from getting near your skin. And don’t forget hats.
Applying a tick repellent with a concentration of DEET of up to 30% has proved effective either due to its smell or its ability to camouflage us when the ticks are putting out their feelers. The other thing that’s been studied is eucalyptus oil for those wishing to avoid DEET. Pretreatment of clothing with permethrin is also very effective, but you have to be careful about its use around cats. If you treat dogs with permethrin, cats need to be kept away from them.
When you’re outside, stay on paths. Once you brush against foliage, you’re putting yourself at risk.
Who’s most at risk for getting tick bites?
Kids are at risk because they might veer off walking paths and run through foliage without realizing it, as are pets because they’re always face-down smelling all these fabulous things outdoors. Hikers are at risk, as is anybody who is active outdoors.
What should you do if you’ve been in an area with ticks?
Immediately do a tick check on yourself, on your children, and on your pet when you get indoors. You can put your clothing into a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes. Water doesn’t kill ticks, but heat does. And then, of course, do a body check. Ticks like to go anywhere it’s warm and protected, like under your arms, between your legs, around private parts, the back of your knees, your neck, in your hair, or behind your ears.
If you find a tick on your body, should you remove it? What is the best way to do it?
Once they attach, they can be difficult to pull out. There are a number of talked-about remedies that do not work and can be dangerous, like using petroleum jelly to “smother the tick” or “burning it off,” which just serves to cause a nasty burn. There’s really no way of doing it other than making sure you have a very sharp pair of tweezers. Not blunt tweezers, because if you squeeze the tick, you increase the potential to infect yourself. Try to pull it out from the mouth straight out, not twisting. That’s very important.
When you’re disposing of it, either flush it down the toilet or drop it in rubbing alcohol in case you end up with a rash and want to bring it in for identification.