Nature is a great place to find happiness, and the summer and fall provide many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. But with outdoor activities come pests and the risk of disease they carry. Virginia is home to American and brown dog ticks, blacklegged ticks, Gulf Coast ticks and Lone Star ticks. All have been known to bite humans and transmit diseases, including Lyme disease, spotted fever rickettsia and ehrlichiosis.
Some simple steps can help reduce your chances of being bitten by a tick and allow you to enjoy the warm months without worry.
Avoid tick-prone areas.
Whenever possible, avoid tick habitats such as woods, tall grass or leaf litter. When hiking, stick to the middle of trails.
Wear the right clothing.
One of the best ways to keep ticks from biting is to put a barrier between your skin and them. Wear long pants, long sleeves and socks that come above the top of your shoe when spending time outdoors. You can also treat your clothing
with permethrin, an insecticide, before wearing them.
Apply tick-targeting insect repellent.
Choose a repellent that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and make sure it’s formulated to protect against ticks. Depending on how long you will be exposed to ticks, you’ll also want to consider the potency of the active ingredient. The manufacturer’s label should provide these details.
Check for ticks after outdoor activity.
It is important to conduct a full-body check after returning from tick-heavy places. Use a mirror to see hard-to-reach areas. Showering immediately is another good way to search for ticks and wash them off before they bite. If you have a pet that spends time outside, check it for ticks regularly, as they can be carried inside by animals.
Launder clothes immediately.
Any ticks that may have travelled on your clothing can be killed in a high-heat dryer in 10 minutes. If your clothes are damp, they must be completely dried before using this method. If your clothes are dirty, wash them in hot water first.
Tick bite first aid
If you are bitten by a tick and it is still on your skin, follow these steps:
- Remove the tick as quickly as possible using a pair of clean tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up with even force. Do not twist or yank the tick, as this could cause its mouth parts to break off and remain lodged in your skin.
- Safely dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet, wrapping it in tape or placing it in a sealed plastic bag and throwing it away.
- Wash the bite area and your hands with soap and water.
- Monitor for symptoms for 30 days. If you experience rash, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain
or joint pain, call your doctor.