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Healthy You

We All Despise Ticks! Here’s How to Protect Yourself

Wednesday, August 10, 2022 11:53 AM
Tags: NorthShore

By Isabelle Banin

We’re not the only ones who are more active during the warmer months—ticks are too. But ticks remain a threat even into the cooler months—the blacklegged deer tick becomes especially active during the fall. Ticks can also be active during the winter as long as the ground temperatures are around or over 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

a tick on a finger

At least 15 species of ticks are in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. While only a few of these species transmit disease to humans, the threat that ticks post to our health is increasing. Cases of Lyme disease, the most common tick-transmitted disease in the U.S. and Illinois, almost doubled between 1991 and 2018.

Knowing how to properly avoid, spot and remove ticks is the best way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. We gathered the top tick safety tips from public health officials to help keep you on guard against these tiny creatures:

Outdoors

  • Wear cloths treated with permethrin insecticide approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or use the EPA’s search tool for finding the best repellent for your needs. Other anti-tick tactics include wearing a broad-brimmed hat, tucking your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants, and walking in the center of trails.
  • Remain vigilant in all outdoor spaces, at all times of the year. Even activities like gardening, walking your dog or sitting on a park bench near the woods may invite ticks that were hanging out nearby.

At Home

  • Put your cloths in the drier for at least 10 minutes on high heat (or an hour if they are damp) to kill any ticks that may be crawling around.
  • Immediately take a shower after throwing your cloths in the drier, since the water could wash off unattached ticks. Once a tick latches onto you, they can secrete an anesthetic saliva, making them difficult to notice. Make sure to thoroughly check yourself for ticks after your shower, including hard-to-see areas like your armpit or scalp.
  • If you have any pets that roam outdoors, frequently check them for ticks, too. Consult your vet about which medicines or repellents are safe for your pet.

If You Find a Tick

  • Carefully remove the tick with tweezers without twisting the tweezers. Avoid folk remedies like using fire or petroleum jelly. (The CDC Tick Bite Bot provides a step-by-step guide with photos for removing ticks.)
  • Place the removed tick in rubbing alcohol or a sealed bag for identification, then flush it down the toilet. The Medical Entomology Lab at the Illinois Natural History Survey offers free tick identification for Illinois residents.

When to See a Doctor

  • Call your primary care provider if you develop a rash or fever after removing a tick, even if several weeks have passed. Other common symptoms of tick-transmitted diseases include muscle pain, headache and fatigue.