Ticks are around throughout the year unless the ground is snow-covered or frozen, but prime tick time in New England starts in April and lasts through fall. Because they can carry diseases—including Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and the Powassan virus—we should all know how to deter, spot and remove ticks and when to seek treatment for a bite.
Preventing Tick Bites
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce your risks of tick bites:
- Use an insect repellent that contains at least 30% DEET
- Wear long sleeves and pants when hiking, and tuck pant legs into your socks
- Avoid areas with tall grass and weeds
- Maintain your property by regularly clearing brush and leaves and mowing your lawn
- Protect your pets with year-round tick prevention
- Call us to treat your property with residual sprays and granules or with a tick control system
Spotting & Removing a Tick
If you’ve spent time outside, do a quick check of your body and clothes when you get inside. When you return home or have more time, do a closer inspection. Use your eyes and hands and pay close attention to your scalp, around your ears, underarms, inside the belly button, around the waist, between legs, the backs of knees and between toes. Ticks prefer warm areas in places like creases or folds of skin.
Ticks can be as small as the head of a pin, making them hard to spot, so feel for any bumps or, as Brad Paisley humorously noted in his song, ask a buddy to help check. Do a careful inspection of children and pets, as well. Then throw your clothes in the wash. Inspect and wash other items you had with you as well, such as picnic blankets, backpacks, pet leashes and collars.
If you do find a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to remove it. Use the tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up with steady pressure. It’s ok if the mouthpart remains as long as you’ve removed the body (the embedded mouthparts will be handled by your body in the same way as a splinter). Then clean the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. You can save the tick in a plastic baggie or take a picture of it in case you develop symptoms later.
Not all ticks carry disease, so if you’ve been bitten, don’t panic. If you were able to easily remove the tick and it didn’t appear to be full of blood, your disease risk is low. Talk to your health care provider who will either recommend that you watch to see if symptoms appear or prescribe a preventive antibiotic. Blood tests can be performed after two to six weeks if needed.
If, however, you develop any symptoms—fever, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, headaches, rash—call your health care provider right away. You should also seek treatment if you can’t remove the tick or if the bite area looks red or infected.