Don’t be a tick target this summer

Sunny summer days are the perfect time for outdoor fun. But they also carry a raised risk of tick bites—and tick-borne diseases. That’s because ticks are most active in warm weather.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the U.S. But ticks can spread more than a dozen different illnesses. And some can be life-threatening.

That’s why it’s so important to protect yourself from tick bites. The good news: Some fairly simple tips from the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can help you stay bite-free.

  • When you're outdoors

    Dress defensively. Keep ticks off your skin by wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long pants tucked into your shoes. For extra protection, wear light-colored clothing. That makes ticks easier to spot.

    Spray before you play. Use an insect repellent registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Look for an active ingredient such as DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD). But don’t use any insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old. And never use products with OLE or PMD on kids younger than 3 years old.

    Treat clothing and gear too. Apply a repellent with 0.5% permethrin to boots, clothing, tents, backpacks and other camping gear.

    Walk smart. Ticks live in grassy, bushy or woody areas. So steer clear of those areas if you can. And stick to the center of hiking trails.

  • When you head inside

    Shower off. This may wash away any unattached ticks. Plus, showering within two hours after being outside has been shown to reduce the risk of Lyme disease. And it may help prevent other tick-borne diseases as well.

    Do a full-body check. Make this a habit anytime you’ve been where ticks are likely to lurk. Be sure to check the backs of the knees, the groin area, the underarms, the ears, the scalp and the back of the neck. Those are all prime tick hiding spots. Remove any ticks you find right away.

    Check your clothing and gear too. If you see any ticks, remove them.

    Debug your clothes. Tumbling them in a dryer on high heat for 10 to 15 minutes can kill off any ticks you might not have seen. Add extra time for damp clothes.

    Take a peek at pets too. Cats and dogs can carry ticks into your home. So check pets that spend time outdoors for ticks daily.

  • How to remove a tick

    Removing a tick right away can lower your risk of getting sick from a bite. Here’s how to make sure you get the whole tick out safely.

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