6 ways to stop ticks in their tracks

girl using bug spray If you live in an area with a high tick population — or plan to travel where ticks may be abundant — you can decrease your risk of getting a tick-borne illness, such as Lyme disease, with some simple precautions:

  • Wear long pants tucked into your socks, a long-sleeve shirt and a hat. Light-colored clothing is best.
  • Apply an insect repellent with DEET to your skin and clothing. Oil of lemon eucalyptus, a more natural product, also offers protection. Always read product directions before applying on children.
  • Stay on the trails. Avoid walking through thick woods and long grass.
  • Keep your dog on a leash. Check pets for ticks when they come indoors.
  • Check for ticks after being outdoors. Ticks can be very small (about the size of a poppy seed) so it's important to search carefully. Showering after being outdoors can help, because unattached ticks may wash off with a washcloth.
  • If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers. Gently grasp the tick near its head or mouth and pull steadily. Dispose of the tick and use antiseptic on the bite area.

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease, and the risk of getting the disease is low if the tick is removed promptly. The bacteria gets into your bloodstream only if the tick stays attached to the skin for 24 to 48 hours or longer.

Often ticks are so small they may go unnoticed. That’s why it’s important to watch for acute signs of Lyme disease, including:

  • Bull’s-eye rash.
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills and body aches.
  • Headache and fatigue.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Some people don’t get a telltale rash, so see your provider if you’re feeling ill or believe you have been bitten. A simple course of antibiotics is all it takes to treat Lyme disease in the early stages.