Protect Yourself this Season

Tick exposure can occur year round, but folks should be particularly aware when they are most active during the warmer months of April through September. Avoiding contact with ticks during this time is preferable.  However, for most woodland owners and nature enthusiasts, the warmer months are some of the best times to enjoy woodlands and the outdoors. 

The Center for Disease Control has the following recommendations before you go outdoors:

•   Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.

•   Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear. I’ve been told some folks spray their truck seats and floorboards with a permethrin-based product to avoid those pesky lingering ticks that get on you the day after being in the field.

•   Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. EPA’s helpful can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions.

     ■     Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.

     ■     Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.

•   Minimize Contact with Ticks

     ■     Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

     ■     Walk in the center of trails.

After you get back home from the field, be sure and check your gear, clothing and body for ticks. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.

Ticks can be anywhere on your body, but spots of particular note include the hair on your head, in and around the ears, under the arms, around the waist, inside the belly button, between the legs, and the backs of the knees. You will need a hand-held mirror or full-length mirror to view many of these areas.

Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.

If you do find a tick on your body, properly remove by using tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Pull upward with steady and even pressure. After removal, clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

For more information about ticks and tick-borne diseases, visit the CDC website, 

Brian MacGowan is an Extension Wildlife Specialist with Purdue University’s Department of Forestry. He also has served as secretary and editor for the Woodland Steward since 2008.