Tick Talk: Expert Tips for Prevention and Safety

Jul 1, 2024

As warmer weather invites us outdoors, it’s essential to be aware of the risks posed by ticks and the diseases they can transmit. Learn how to protect yourself and loved ones from ticks, including prevention strategies, recognizing symptoms of tick-borne diseases, and what steps to take if bitten.

Summer makes for a great time to get back out in nature and enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities. Spending time outside, walking your dog, camping, hiking, and gardening are great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. However, these opportunities for outdoor activities come with risks. Ticks are a very common pest in upstate New York during the summer months. It’s likely that you or someone you know will, at some point, have a tick bite. As intimidating as it may sound, tick bites are preventable and manageable with the right safety precautions and awareness.

A ticks’ life cycle generally lasts up to two years. Within that life cycle, ticks will have four stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. At every stage, a tick requires blood to survive. Ticks can feed on mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They typically have a different host at every life stage, and most will die because they do not have a host for their next feeding. Some variations of ticks may stay with the same host for their whole life span.

Knowing is the first step to prevention. Ticks typically live in grassy, bushy, or wooded areas. Some may even be on an animal host. Avoiding these areas and walking in cleared areas, such as trails or open fields, is a good way to enjoy outdoor activities while also preventing ticks. According to the CDC (the Center for Disease Control & Prevention), treating your clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin (which is an insecticide derived from the chrysanthemum flower) can keep your clothes and gear protected through several washes.

After spending time outdoors, it’s important to follow up on your prevention methods by checking yourself and others for ticks. The CDC recommends tumble drying clothes for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing. If your clothes need washing, use hot water. Medium and cold temperatures will not kill ticks. Examining your body, gear, and pets for ticks is essential. Showering within two hours is another effective method for reducing the risk of tick-borne illnesses by providing an opportunity to do a thorough tick check and to wash off any unattached ticks. Check for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside of belly button, the back of knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in and around hair.

If you happen to find a tick, it’s important to remove it as soon as possible. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull upward and don’t twist or jerk the tick, as this could cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If that happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. After removing the tick, be sure to clean the bite area thoroughly using soap or rubbing alcohol. When disposing of a tick, place it in a sealed container, wrap it tightly in tape, or even flush it down the toilet

Image via CDC, “What to Do After a Tick Bite”.

If you’re concerned about an infection from a tick bite, it’s important to speak with your provider. Signs of an infection include a fever or chills, aches and pains, or a rash. These symptoms can occur within a few weeks of the initial tick bite. Your healthcare provider will consider your symptoms, geological region, and lab tests prior to deciding on a plan for treatment.  As summer unfolds, it’s crucial to stay vigilant about tick safety to ensure a healthy and enjoyable season outdoors. By following preventive measures and staying informed about tick habitats, you can reduce your risk of tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Enjoy the great outdoors with confidence and peace of mind by prioritizing tick safety this summer.

Dealing with a tick bite? At TOI’s Family Health Clinic, we’re here to support you with compassionate and confidential care. From tick bites to cold symptoms, reproductive health needs, and comprehensive testing for lead, flu, RSV, strep, and COVID—we’ve got you covered. Schedule your visit online at https://healow.com/apps/provider/jenny-ferris-2753933 or call us at 607-687-5333. Telehealth visits and walk-ins are available.  Your health matters. Take charge of your well-being and visit us today.


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