It’s tick season, and if you’re going to spend time outdoors, you need to know where ticks lurk, how to avoid them and what to do if you find one of the nasty critters trying to bite into your skin.
Most ticks are just unpleasant, but they can carry bacteria, viruses and parasites that make you sick. Lyme disease, carried by the tiny black-legged (or deer) tick, is one people worry about. In a recent year, about 235 children under age 19 in Wisconsin contracted Lyme disease. And there are other risks you should be aware of.
Ticks love places that are moist and humid. Woods, shrubs, underbrush, leaf litter and tall grasses are favorite hiding places. If you’re going into the woods, stick to the center of the trail.
If your yard has a wooded area, make a tick barrier of wood-chips or gravel between the woods and the lawn.
When you’re going into tick country, wear protective clothes that cover your skin.
If you’re going into the woods or doing yard work in deep vegetation, consider using an insect repellent.
Clothes, socks and shoes can be treated with products containing permethrin before wearing. You spray or soak your clothing and let it dry before wearing. It lasts through several washing’s. Some clothes are manufactured with permethrin in the fabric.
Your skin can be protected with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) insect repellents. Make sure the product is at least 20% DEET, and use it according to directions. DEET is considered safe in children over two months of age if applied carefully.
Make these precautions a habit whenever you or your kids come inside:
Don’t panic if you find a tick attached to your body. Grasp it as close to the skin as possible with a tweezers and pull straight out. Don’t use heat or a match to try to make it back out, or petroleum jelly to suffocate it: those tricks don’t work.
The CDC Tick Removal page has more about how to do it right.
If you’re worried about Lyme disease, use this chart to see if it’s a deer tick, the only one that carries Lyme disease.
After you’ve gotten rid of the tick, keep watching your whole body for a rash. If you get one in the next 3-30 days and it’s warm but not itchy or looks like a bull’s eye, you should talk to your doctor. It might be Lyme disease.
Also watch for flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, fatigue, aches or swollen lymph nodes. If those develop or you feel sick in the days and even weeks after the bite, see a doctor.
More about ticks and Lyme disease.