Protect yourself from ticks this summer
If your Memorial Day weekend plans include walks through wooded or brushy areas, make sure you pack the insect repellent - and use it - to ward off tick bites.
Health officials warn that deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, like to hang out in many of the same places as Minnesotans this time of year. Using insect repellent and taking other precautions can help you reduce your risk of getting one or more of several serious diseases carried by ticks.
Here's how you can protect yourself from tick bites:
Know when you're in tick habitat
- Wooded or brushy areas for deer ticks
- Grassy or wooded areas for American dog ticks
If you spend time outdoors in tick habitat, use repellent to lower your risk of disease
- Apply DEET-based repellents (up to 30 percent DEET) to clothing or skin.
- Pre-treat fabric with permethrin-based repellents to protect against tick bites for at least two weeks without reapplication. This is an excellent option for people who frequently venture into wooded areas.
Manage landscape at the cabin or other getaway to reduce risk of tick bites
- Keep lawns and trails mowed short
- Remove leaves and brush
- Create a landscape barrier of wood chips or rocks between mowed lawns and woods
- Apply pesticides in the spring or early summer along the edges of wooded yards and trails, being sure to follow the pesticide label instructions carefully
Dress appropriately and do regular tick checks
- When outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts tucked into your pants, then tuck the pants into socks or boots and add a hat. Light-colored clothing makes it easier to spot ticks before they reach the skin.
- During a hike, do tick checks every four hours using a buddy system.
- Immediately after a hike, do a bare-skin check. A shower at the end of a hike will remove any tick that isn’t firmly attached.
If you’re exposed to a tick
- Use a tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, getting a grip on the tick’s head if possible. Apply a steady upward pull until it releases its grip. Don’t twist the tick or jerk it suddenly because it may break off the head or mouth parts.
- Don’t squeeze the tweezers to the point of crushing the tick. Secretions released may contain germs that cause disease. If any part of the tick remains embedded in your skin, remove it like you would remove a sliver. Some tiny ticks can be scraped off with the edge of a credit card.
- Wash your hands and the wound with soap and water after removal, then apply antibiotic ointment to the bite.
For more information, visit Mayoclinic.org.