Unlike most biting insects, ticks can remain latched onto your skin after biting you. Additionally, blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) can spread diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), and tularemia. Because ticks can be active year-round, especially from April through September, it’s important to take proactive steps to prevent tick bites.
While reducing your exposure to ticks is one of the best ways to prevent tick bites, there are other helpful tips that can help you avoid these insects. Keep reading for five tick prevention tips and how to avoid getting bit by these insects.
1. Use an insect repellent
One of the best methods to prevent tick bites is by using a tick repellent. Some insect repellents that are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and safe to use include DEET, picaridin, IR3535, 2-undecanone, and oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). Unlike chemical repellents like DEET, OLE doesn’t leave behind a sticky residue, has a pleasant scent, and doesn’t harm your clothing and gear. It’s also one of the only plant-based ingredients recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray (LEO Spray) repels ticks that may transmit or carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tick paralysis, encephalitis, ehrlichiosis, and Powassan virus. It protects against ticks for up to four hours, which is comparable to how long DEET protects against ticks. It comes in a two- or four-ounce bottle and contains responsibly sourced, plant-based ingredients.
2. Avoid wooded areas
Ticks thrive in wooded areas with overgrown brush, leaf piles, and tall grasses. Stay on marked hiking trails and walk on clear pathways to prevent ticks from latching onto your skin. If you’re walking your dog through these areas, make sure it stays with you and doesn’t go off the path into areas with a lot of brush. You should also be mindful whenever you’re outside camping, gardening, or hunting.
3. Wear lightweight, protective clothing
While insect repellent can create a barrier of protection against ticks, you should also consider wearing lightweight long sleeves, pants, shoes, and socks when venturing into wooded areas. Avoid walking around barefoot and wearing open-toe shoes or sandals. For an extra layer of protection, treat clothing with an insect repellent.
While permethrin is a commonly-used tick pesticide that’s applied to clothing and stays bound to the material of your clothing, it still contains chemicals that may cause mild itching and can deteriorate your gear. For a safer alternative, consider using a natural repellent like the Murphy’s Naturals LEO Spray. It contains responsibly sourced, plant-based ingredients and is completely DEET-free.
4. Perform a physical and visual tick check
After returning indoors, perform a tick check to catch any ticks that may still be attached to your body. Not only can tick checks help you catch ticks, they can prevent the chances of you getting Lyme disease (the risk of getting Lyme disease is greater the longer a tick is attached to you). Conduct a full-body check and use a full-length mirror to assess all parts of your body. Be sure to check the following body parts:
- Behind the knees
- Under the arms
- Inside your belly button
- In and around the ears
- On the scalp
- Around the waist
- Between the legs
Don’t forget to check your pet, gear, and any other items that could have carried ticks into your house.
5. Remove ticks immediately
If you notice a tick on your skin, use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick’s head as close to the surface of your skin as possible and gently, but firmly, remove it. If you notice tiny black spots on your skin after removing a tick, don’t panic. These are likely the tick’s mouthparts and will work their way out of your skin over time. You may see some redness, tenderness, or swelling depending on your reaction to the bite, which is completely normal. Wipe the bite with alcohol to prevent a secondary infection.
Note: Do not try to remove a tick with petroleum jelly or essential oils. Using tweezers is the best way to remove a tick.
Remember: Removing a tick in the first 24 hours after it attaches to your skin reduces the risk of Lyme disease.
After you’ve performed a tick check and removed any ticks on your body, hop in the shower to wash away any remaining ticks that aren’t fully attached to your skin. You should also wash any clothes you were wearing and dry them on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes.
Tick prevention tips to keep your pet safe
If you have pets, it’s important to keep them safe from ticks. Dogs in particular are susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Here are some tips to prevent your dog from getting tick bites:
- Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick prevention products for your dog. Popular tick prevention products include tick collars, spot treatments, topical sprays, and tablets.
- Check your pets for ticks daily and examine under their collar, between their legs, between their toes, around their ears, around their tail, and around their eyelids.
- Never apply flea and tick medication for cats to dogs unless the label specifically says the product can be used on both cats and dogs.
How to prevent ticks in your yard
If you want to prevent ticks in your yard, consider the following tips:
- Remove leaf piles and overgrown brush in your yard to prevent ticks from flocking to these habitats. You may also want to prune bushes and cut long tree limbs.
- Mow your lawn regularly and keep grass blades at three inches or less.
- Consider removing invasive plants like Japanese barberry or glossy buckthorn, as these plants attract deer ticks. You may want to grow deer-resistant plants such as lavender and foxglove for an extra layer of protection.
- Create a three-foot-wide barrier with wood chips or gravel, as ticks don’t like to cross over dry areas.
- Remove any trash or old furniture in your yard to reduce areas where ticks can hide.
- Prevent stray animals from coming into your yard by building a fence around your property and installing motion-activated sprinklers or lights.
- If you fear you may have a large tick population in your yard, consider hiring a professional pest control company to treat the issue. In general, most pest control providers will apply two pesticide treatments to get rid of your tick infestation.