I’ve only had one tick bite in my life. I was seven and it scarred me, physically and emotionally. To this day, when I’m out for a walk with my dogs, I swear that there’s an army of ticks surrounding us, strategizing their attack. They are lurking on every branch, every log, and possibly even appearing from thin air to dive-bomb us.
But it turns out that it’s not an aerial attack I need to be worried about, it’s a ground assault. Ticks don’t actually jump, fly or drop from trees onto you. No, it’s even creepier: ticks are climbers. They latch onto you and climb their way up your body to find a good juicy place to settle down. So if you have a tick on your neck, that little bugger probably started out on your foot or leg and crawled all the way up your body to get there. Yuck.
Because ticks carry disease-causing microbes and some (deer ticks) can even transmit Lyme disease, your best bet is to avoid ticks all together. Like many things in life, prevention is key.
Tick Prevention Tips
When you go out to play: Ticks live in moist and humid environments, especially wooded areas or anywhere it’s shaded with leaves. When you’re out for a hike, bike or walk, stick to the center of trails and avoid sitting directly on the ground, woodpiles or fallen logs.
In your own backyard: If you live near a wooded area, you can encourage ticks to stay away from your lawn by placing a layer of wood chips between your grass yard and the woods edge. The ticks will be attracted to the moisture and protection of the wood chips rather than your lawn. Mow your lawn frequently and don’t keep piles of leaves or lawn clippings around. Just say no to mobile tick motels (deer) by installing high fences and deer-resistant plants.
Do Tick Checks: After an outdoor adventure get in the habit of doing a thorough tick check on yourself and your kids (and dogs). Make sure you look at all the places ticks might be hiding: under your arms, in your belly button, in your hair and around your ears. Shower immediately if you can.
And don’t forget your clothes! After tick exposure, the CDC recommends drying your clothes in your dryer on high heat for an hour before you wash them. This will effectively kill any ticks remaining on your clothes.
Speaking of clothes…
Wear tick-repellent clothing: One of the wonders of modern-day outdoor apparel has to be insect-repellent fabric. It’s a must for buggy outdoor conditions — and a UV Buff® with Insect Shield® is a great place to start. Not only will it protect your head and neck from the sun, the Insect Shield repellent is EPA registered to repel ticks (as well as a variety of other pesky and potentially dangerous insects.)
Check out this video from our friends at Insect Shield to see how it works:
If you do end up with a tick bite, don’t panic. It might be gross, but the good news is that for most tick-borne diseases, you have at least 24 hours to find and remove a feeding tick before it transmits an infection.
The best way to remove a tick is with a sharp pair of tweezers. Anyone who has tried this before knows that there is a little technique involved. Watch this short video to see how it’s done: