It’s the time of year when ticks are out in our region. Consider these strategies for avoiding bites and the illnesses they can cause.
A bite from an infected tick can lead to a number of diseases, so prevention is important for avoiding infection, notes Meghan Hermance, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of South Alabama Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine. She offers these strategies for steering clear of ticks:
Where ticks lurk
Besides camping deep in the woods or working with livestock, there are other everyday activities that can lead to exposure to ticks, including walking your pets or even hanging out in your backyard. Ticks often live in tall, grassy areas, meadows, shrubby-type vegetation and tall pastures.
How to protect yourself
There are simple steps you can take to keep ticks off your skin before and during hiking, camping, mowing grass or other outdoor activities. Be sure to:
- Tuck pant legs into socks
- Wear closed-toed shoes
- Dress in light-colored clothing (to see any ticks on you)
- Conduct frequent tick checks during outdoor activity
- Walk in the middle of trails to avoid leaf litter
It's important to treat your clothing and gear with products recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) such as those that contain 0.5% permethrin. It’s a good idea to use repellents — those approved by the EPA – such as DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
Check yourself thoroughly after outdoor activity
The best way to stop transmission of tick-borne diseases is to be cautious of ticks and prevent bites. Once outdoor activities are complete, it's vital to check yourself, your children, pets and gear for ticks. After removing your clothes, wash them in hot water and dry them in a dryer on high heat.
A thorough body check includes paying special attention to:
- Ears and hairline
- Under your arms
- Inside your belly button
- Between your legs
- Around your waist
- On the backs of your knees
Showering within two hours of coming indoors, notes the CDC, has been shown to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks, and it creates a good opportunity to do a tick check.