How to prevent tick bites
From proactively avoiding areas where ticks may live to using insect repellents, here are a few ways to prevent tick bites.
1. Use caution when venturing into wooded areasWhile you’re out walking, hiking, camping, or performing other outdoor activities, don’t stray from clearly marked paths. Ticks tend to hide in areas with overgrown brush, leaf piles, and debris, and it’s less likely for ticks to latch onto you when you’re in a clear, clutter-free area. You should also keep your dogs on a leash when walking in wooded areas to prevent them from bounding off through the woods, where they could pick up ticks.
2. Use an insect repellentThere are a variety of insect repellents that can be used to repel ticks. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, DEET, picaridin, and permethrin are some of the most common tick repellents available.
- Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE): OLE repels repels ticks that may transmit or carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tick paralysis, encephalitis, ehrlichiosis, and Powassan virus. Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray uses Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus as its active ingredient.
- DEET: This is an active ingredient found in many insect repellents. Created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1946, DEET became commercially available in 1957. It’s effective at repelling mosquitoes, ticks, and other stinging insects and it can protect against mosquito-borne diseases, such as the West Nile virus and Zika virus. It can also protect against tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease and RMSF.
- Picaridin: Also known as icaridin, picaridin is a synthetic compound that protects against ticks and mosquitoes. Unlike DEET, picaridin doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy after application and doesn’t have an odor. It also isn’t a plasticizer, so it won’t damage your clothing or gear.
- Permethrin: This insecticide is commonly used on clothing, tents, sleeping bags, and other outdoor gear to repel ticks. Some products that contain permethrin actually kill ticks on contact, which can be helpful if you’re looking for a quick solution to get rid of these insects. Most people treat clothing with permethrin to keep ticks off.
While DEET, picaridin, and permethrin are great at repelling ticks, they contain chemicals that could be harmful to you and the environment. Additionally, they may cause an allergic reaction or slight skin irritation. If you’re looking for a natural tick repellent, consider oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). Oil of lemon eucalyptus is one of the only plant-based insect repellents approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and it’s recommended as safe to use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
3. Consider tick-proofing your yardOne of the best lines of defense against ticks is getting rid of an environment where they can thrive. Here are some tips to prevent ticks in your yard:
- Get rid of trash, debris, and clutter. This will reduce the number of spaces where ticks can hide.
- Keep your grass blades at three inches or less and mow your lawn regularly. Ticks are known to hide among tall grasses.
- Remove any leaf piles, overgrown brush, twigs, and fallen tree limbs from your yard.
- Prevent stray animals from entering your yard by building a fence or installing motion-activated lights and sprinklers.
- If you have a current tick infestation or want to prevent one, consider hiring a professional pest control company to apply treatments and use preventative tactics. Some pest control providers will create a customized plan with natural treatments if you don’t prefer the chemical solutions offered.
4. Perform a full-body tick check
After returning indoors, examining your body, clothing, and gear for ticks is one of the best ways to locate ticks and prevent the spread of Lyme disease. Stand in front of a full-length mirror and inspect the following parts of your body: around your scalp, around your ears, under your arms, around your belly button, around your waist, behind your knees, between your legs, and around your toes and ankles.
How to remove ticksIf you notice a tick on your skin, don’t panic. Use a pair of tweezers to remove it. Don’t use essential oils or petroleum jelly, as these substances may irritate your skin or cause an allergic reaction and may make it more difficult to remove the tick. Using the tweezers, grasp the head of the tick as close to your skin as possible and gently pull it away from your skin. If you notice some black spots in your skin after removing the tick, don’t try to fish these out. These are likely the tick’s mouthparts and will come out on their own.
After removing the tick, wipe the area with an alcohol pad. This will prevent a secondary infection from forming at the site.
Tick repellents for children
When the weather is nice and tick season is in full swing, you’ll want to protect your children from tick bites whenever they’re outdoors. Three of the most common tick repellents for kids include DEET, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, products with a DEET concentration of 10%–30% are safe to use on children, but the Academy recommends that DEET not be used on children under two months of age.
When applying any of these tick repellents to kids, be sure to keep these tips in mind:
- Apply the repellent as directed and never apply insect repellents on broken, damaged, or irritated skin.
- If you’re applying sunscreen and an insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first followed by the repellent.
- Instead of spraying a repellent directly on your child’s face, spray some in your hands first before gently rubbing it around your child’s face. Keep the repellent away from the eyes and mouth.
Tick repellents for petsIn addition to protecting your children, you’ll also want to keep ticks off your pets. While cats can receive tick bites, dogs are particularly susceptible to tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease and RMSF. Tick repellents for pets come in a variety of forms, including sprays, shampoos, collars, oral tablets, and spot treatments.
Most tick repellents for dogs contain some sort of insecticide and will likely contain one of the following active ingredients: fipronil, spinosad, afoxolaner, nitenpyram, etofenprox, pyrethrins, tetrachlorvinphos, or fluralaner. Before purchasing a product, always read the label to understand how to use the tick repellent and be aware of any side effects. Common side effects for pets that use tick repellents include skin irritation, lethargy, and hair loss.
Additionally, some tick repellents are made only for dogs of certain ages and weights. Again, read the product label before purchasing a tick repellent for your dog and never use repellents on puppies that are younger than eight weeks old.
Similar to humans, one of the best ways to prevent your pet from getting bit by ticks is to perform a visual check after returning indoors. Check around your pet’s eyelids, in and around its ears, under its collar, around its tail, between its legs, and around its tail.