In Alabama, the springtime brings so many wonderful things, like wildflowers and warm, breezy air. But, it also brings something that literally bugs us—ticks. Lots and lots of ticks. When we hike this time of year, we always end our day with a "tick check" to make sure no uninvited guests have hitched a ride.
In recent years, an increasing number of people in the United States have contracted Lyme disease from ticks, and spring and summer are the peak seasons for ticks. To help you stay healthy, we’ve highlighted important info about ticks and some advice to help you avoid these blood-sucking creatures..
Know The Enemy
The first step is to know what types of ticks are common where you live or where you plan to be outdoors. There are many species of ticks in the United States—wood ticks, dog ticks, Lone Star ticks, Blacklegged ticks (a.k.a. deer ticks)— and they carry different diseases. If blacklegged ticks aren’t common in your area, then you’re at a lower risk of getting Lyme disease. You can determine the types of ticks in your neck of the woods and the current level of tick activity by visiting [www.tickencounter.org](www.tickencounter.org). Plus, the site has a helpful Tick Identification Chart.
Perform Daily Tick Checks
The best time to do a tick check is when you get back home, or get back to camp—basically, when you can strip down and look carefully at your entire body in decent light. There’s even a Tickencounter app to help you know where on your body to search for ticks.
Treat Clothes with Tick Repellent
Ticks don’t fly or fall from trees—they crawl up, and they want to feed on blood around the head, neck, and ears of their host where the skin is thinner and hosts have more trouble grooming. So, your prevention strategy should begin from the ground up. Nymphal deer ticks—the ones the size of poppy seeds—hide in leaves, so they’ll crawl up from the ground. To avoid them, treat your shoes with Permethrin bug repellent.
Lone Star tick nymphs hang out a bit higher than the leaves, and they’ll crawl up your legs, so use Permethrin spray to treat the inside of pants or shorts, or get clothes pre-treated with a repellent likeInsect Shield. Keep in mind that ticks are more likely to walk up the inside than the outside of your shorts. If a tick rubs against permethrin for five to 30 seconds, it will likely get a dose that causes it to fall off and eventually die.
Remove Ticks with Tweezers
Use pointed tweezers to remove a tick as if you were removing a splinter. Try to grab the mouthparts right next to the skin. Don’t try to kill it by squashing it, because that will push germs to the front end of the tick, which is attached to your skin. Also, things like hot matches and Vaseline don’t work as consistently as tweezers.
Protect Your Pet
If you hike with your dog, be sure to check your pet for ticks before you hop back into your car, as ticks can latch onto fur or your dog’s skin and hitch a ride into your home. You can remove ticks from your pet using tweezers, and you might consider treating your pet with a product that can kill ticks or make them detach quickly.
Written by Marcus Woolf for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL.