It’s summertime and the woods are calling! A walk in the forest or a camping trip with friends or family by the lake may seem like great getaways, but you need to be prepared before you go, because this time of year isn’t just a favorite for nature lovers.
Insects love the heat of the summer sun, and just like flowers and trees, spring rains make them bloom overnight. While you’re walking in the woods, ticks are one the most dangerous things you can be exposed to, yet most of us never see them coming.
Here are five ways you can stay ahead of the tick menace this outdoor season!
1) Location, location, location
Are you hiking in a dense forest with thick vegetation or going for a picnic near a stream? While ticks can be anywhere, they are most commonly found in what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describe as “grassy, brushy, or wooded areas.” When hitting the trail, be sure to do some research ahead of time to see if other hikers have mentioned the presence of ticks or if there’s any signage in the area about them.
That having been said, ticks can take up residence in the grass of your front lawn or backyard, and of course, they can live on your pets. These locations are much easier to defend than the great outdoors!
2) Preparation is the best defense
So you’re going out into the woods and are scared about the danger of ticks. Don’t be afraid. Be prepared. Start preparing before you head out and you’ll be much safer.
Anything that’s going with you, especially your clothes, but also picnic blankets, backpacks, shelters, and tents, can all be treated with permethrin, an insecticide that kills ticks along with other culprits in the summertime insect wars, like mosquitoes and chiggers. It can wear off eventually, so you’ll need to reapply it after about 5–6 wash cycles.
If you’re worried about the potential toxicity of synthetic chemicals to yourself, your pets, or the environment, never fear. Mother nature has all kinds of antidotes for tick season. Essential oils such as citronella, cedar, geranium, and peppermint will keep you safe and give your clothes a fresh smell. You can also rub garlic on your skin, but then it might not just be the ticks you end up repelling!
Whether you go natural or synthetic, wear repellent.
3) The clothes make the man (or the woman)
What you wear is crucial, as is how you wear it. When it’s warm outside, you might be tempted to throw on some shorts, sandals, and a tank top. But these skimpy clothes will leave you fully exposed to ticks, not to mention sunburn!
Instead, wear long shirts, pants, socks, and close-toed shoes. While it might not be the coolest fashion trend, tucking your shirt into your pants and your jeans into your socks can help keep ticks from crawling into vulnerable, hidden spots.
4) Spot checks can save your life
While on the trail or after coming from the park or the yard, do a spot check on yourself, your loved ones, and your pets. Taking a hot shower is a great way to prevent ticks from settling in and infecting you. It’s also a great time to check all the nooks and crannies where ticks like to hide.
5) Remove them properly
If you spot a tick, don’t just start grabbing or scratching at it. You might rip out the body while leaving the head behind, which can still make you sick. Take some tweezers and get as close as you can to the surface. Pull it up steadily with force. When you’ve removed it, make sure to sanitize your hands and the tweezers with alcohol.
The best way to get rid of the tick once you’ve removed it is to drown it in water. Don’t try squishing it with your fingers as this could spread the dangerous diseases they carry inside!