Family Health

Prevent Tick Bites and Avoid Tick-borne Illnesses

Jul 18 • 2018

Tips to Protect Against Tick-borne Illnesses

While ticks can be active year-round in warm climates, tick activity typically increases during spring, summer and fall. So when you’re out enjoying the nice weather, especially in grassy or wooded areas, you’re more likely to come into contact with ticks. That’s because ticks typically inhabit woods, bushes, high grass, leaf litter and other such areas.

Ticks infected with bacteria, viruses or parasites pass tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis to adults and children. Failure to treat these illnesses quickly can have long-term and debilitating results or even lead to death. So it’s important to do what you can to avoid tick bites and to know the symptoms of tick-borne diseases, such as aches and pains, fever, chills and rash.

To help the Mid-South community stay safe, we asked Dr. Mark Castellaw, medical director at Baptist Medical Group, for tips to prevent tick bites when working, playing or spending time outside this summer.

1. Wear Long, Light Clothing

Wear the right clothing if you are outside in wooded or grassy areas. According to Castellaw, long sleeves and pants work best to prevent tick bites on arms and legs.

“If possible, wear tight pants and tuck your pant legs into your socks to keep ticks from sneaking under your clothing,” said Castellaw. “Light colors make it easier to detect ticks on clothing.”

2. Use Tick Repellent Sprays

Spray a tick repellant containing DEET on your skin and clothing before going outside. When applied correctly, repellants protect you from ticks for up to several hours. If you are outside for a long time, reapply repellent according to the product instructions. Treat pets with tick repellent topical spray, medication or a treated collar, as they are also susceptible to ticks.

If you currently use a pest service to treat your house and yard, Castellaw recommends asking for a solution that also deters ticks. “Or check your local home and garden store, like Home Depot or Lowe’s, for a tick-repellant solution to spray in your yard,” said Castellaw.

3. Check for Ticks

To prevent tick bites, check your body and clothes for ticks after spending time outdoors and in tick-infested areas. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view your entire body and check all body parts.

“When you’re looking for ticks, it’s important to check under the arms, in and around the ears and hair, between the legs and around the waist,” said Castellaw.

4. Shower or Bathe

After being outside, taking a shower is a good protective habit for preventing tick-borne illnesses. “Showering helps wash off unattached ticks, and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check on your body,” said Castellaw.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showering within two hours of coming indoors can reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease.

5. Wash or Dry Clothes

Ticks often come into the house on clothing. If clothes need washing, use hot water to kill ticks. If you can’t use hot water, tumble dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks in or on clothing. Cold or medium temperature water will not kill ticks.

Tick Bite Treatment

If you receive a tick bite, check with your doctor. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible if you develop any type of rash where a tick bite occurred. When Lyme disease goes untreated, debilitating arthritis, fevers or upper respiratory issues may develop. According to Castellaw, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics to prevent illness and start you on the path to recovery.

“Doxycycline is the most common antibiotic to treat tick bites,” said Castellaw. The treatment is very effective when given early.

Learn more about treatment for infectious diseases at Baptist. Find a Baptist doctor by visiting our Find a Physician page.