Your best defense against tick-borne illness is to avoid contact with ticks in the first place. Your next best defense is to quickly find and remove any ticks that may latch on to you.
Avoid Tick Habitat
Ticks tend to be near the ground, in leaf litter, grasses, bushes and fallen logs. High risk activities include playing in leaves, gathering firewood and leaning against tree trunks. When you hike, stay on cleared trails instead of walking across grassy fields.
Wear shoes, socks, long pants and long sleeves. Tie back long hair and wear a hat. Light-colored clothing helps you spot ticks before they cause trouble.
You can purchase clothing that has been pre-treated with the repellent permethrin at outdoor recreation stores. (The protection lasts through 70 washings.) Or, you can purchase permethrin and spray clothing yourself. (Protection lasts 5-6 washings.) Be sure to treat both the inside and outside of clothes.
Spraying footwear with permethrin will prevent ticks from crawling up your shoes. (In one study, those with treated shoes had 74% fewer tick bites than those with untreated shoes.)
Use Repellent on Exposed Skin
Studies show that repellents with DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil are the most effective.
Check for Ticks
When outdoors, periodically inspect your clothing and skin for ticks. Brush off those that aren’t attached and remove any that are.
Once home, take a shower right away. This will wash away unattached ticks and offer a good chance to thoroughly inspect yourself. Feel for bumps that might be embedded ticks. Pay careful attention to hidden places, including groin, armpits, back of knees, belly button and scalp. Parents should check their children.
Running your clothes in a hot dryer for 10 minutes before you wash them will kill any ticks that may be there.
Protect Your Pets
Ticks can infect dogs and cats, too. Also, their fur can act like a “tick magnet,” carrying ticks inside your home. Consult with your veterinarian about tick-protection for your pets.