Ticks are external parasites that live on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. They can transmit Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne meningoencephalitis and a number of other diseases. Although you should protect yourself and your pets from ticks year-round — particularly if you live near woody or high grass areas — ticks are most active in the warmer months, from April to September.
Easier said than done, of course, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advise people to avoid woody and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter and to walk in the center of trails.
Ticks are repelled with DEET or Permethrin. Use repellents that contain 20 to 30 percent DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours, recommends the CDC, following the product instructions and avoiding hands, eyes and mouth.
Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective for longer.
For a list of additional repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), click here.
If you've been in tick-infested areas, take a shower as soon as you get indoors or at least within two hours. Conduct a full-body check using, preferably, a full-length mirror. Check your entire body and your clothing.
Children should be thoroughly checked, particularly under their arms, in and around their ears, inside their belly buttons, behind their knees and their hair.
Check all your gear, including backpacks, and tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases, so it is absolutely essential to use a tick preventive product on your four-legged best friend. It's really difficult to detect tick bites on dogs, and signs of disease may not appear for 7 to 21 days or even longer after a tick bite. Nobody knows your dog better than you do — so if he's not acting like himself, whether there are changes in behavior or appetite, take him to the vet.
The CDC recommends that, if your dogs spend time outdoors, you check them for ticks daily. Ask your veterinarian about tick preventatives, and whether there are any tick-borne diseases in your neighborhood.
Remove a tick from your body or your pet as follows:
And check your kitties, regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor cats!
Remedies such as applying nail polish or petroleum jelly to the tick or using heat to make it detach itself from the skin are just time-consuming and not effective. You want and need to remove it as quickly as possible, so grab those tweezers and follow the steps listed above.
If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor immediately.