How to avoid getting a tick-borne disease

By Deanna Tolliver

         Dog tick

It’s a fact that you will likely encounter more ticks in the month of May than any other. Too bad that May is also the month when we want to spend more time outside – hiking, walking, visiting state parks and all the other places our RVs can take us.    

More ticks means more “opportunities” to contract one of the many diseases that ticks carry. Here’s a partial list, with the most common at the top:

• Lyme disease
• Babesiosis
• Anaplasmosis
• Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
• Tularemia

Regardless of the disease, the symptoms are all similar, and medical professionals sometimes refer to it as “summertime flu.” The symptoms can include:

• Muscle and joint aches
Exhaustion
Fever and chills
Headaches

It’s more important than ever before to take steps to prevent you and your family – and your pets – from getting a tick-borne disease. Here are some tips.

Clothing

1. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks. Ticks usually start at the bottom – your shoes – and crawl up.

2. Wear light colors so you can more easily find any ticks that find you.

3. You can pretreat your clothing with permethrin. Clothing can be soaked, shoes can be sprayed. Here are a couple of  videos that show you how to do both.

4. You can purchase clothing that is already treated with permethrin, including socks, shirts, pants, etc. If you’re looking for these items, be sure to find out the active ingredient: Some of this clothing is treated with DEET, for repelling mosquitoes. DEET may repel some ticks, but it does not kill them. And, permethrin poses less of a health hazard than DEET.

What is permethrin?

Permethrin is a synthetic form of an insecticidal compound produced from the chrysanthemum flower. It is the active ingredient in some lice shampoos, and it’s been used as a clothing treatment to prevent ticks by the military since the 1990s. CAUTION: DO NOT EXPOSE YOUR CAT TO PERMETHRIN! TOXIC!

Here’s a permethrin spray you can purchase on Amazon to treat clothing.

Behavior

             Tick habitat

Being mindful of where you walk is a good tick deterrent as well. Steer clear of brushy and forested areas during the months when ticks are most plentiful (May and June are the worst months). If you are in an area where ticks are likely, perform daily tick checks. These areas are favorite tick hiding places:

• Scalp
• Ears
• Underarms
• Belly button
• Waist
• Behind the knees

The best way to avoid a tick disease is to remove the tick within 24-48 hours after its bite – that’s how long it takes for disease transmission to take place.

Correct tick removal

Most important: Be sure to completely remove the tick, especially the head. There are a couple of good ways to do this.

1. Use “pointy” tweezers, NOT the ones with a flat edge. If you use the latter, there’s a chance you could tear the tick in two, leaving the head behind.

2. Use a Tick Twister.

The BAD ways to remove a tick: using your fingers, using a still-warm match, applying a lit cigarette, applying alcohol, or thinking they will rinse off in the shower.

You can still fully enjoy your time outdoors this spring and summer. Just “uptick” your tick awareness!

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2 Thoughts to “How to avoid getting a tick-borne disease”

  1. Tim

    I volunteer at the local national park, they issued us the “Official Tick Key”. They are also sold in the gift shop. I can testify from personal experience that the “Tick Key” works well.

  2. Diane

    Tried the tick twister. Worked great on the larger sized “dog ticks” but not on the tiny “deer ticks”. Head stayed embedded in my leg. When that happens, I clean well with alcohol then put on ichthamol (a draw) and bandaids. It draws the head out pretty quickly.

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