Protecting Yourself From Ticks
While lions and tigers aren’t likely lurking in the forests and grasses of the Midwest, another frightening predator certainly is. Ticks are small spider-like arachnids that feed on the blood of animals and humans and can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Often a tick will attach to an animal which later brushes the tick onto leaves or other plants as it runs through the woods. The tick then lives in bushes, grasses, and dead leaves waiting to latch on to another unsuspecting explorer. The most active time of year for infected ticks in the Midwest is from April to September.
There are steps you can take to protect your body from bites:
Wear long pants and long sleeves in outdoor areas where ticks may live. Tuck your shirt into your pants. Tuck pant legs into your socks. Wear light colors so you can more easily see ticks on your clothes.
Use insect repellent. Spray insect repellent containing at least 20 percent DEET on your exposed skin. You can also use it on clothing, shoes, and camping gear. Avoid getting DEET on children’s hands, mouth, or eyes.
Avoid tick-infested areas. Avoid brushing against grasses, bushes, and other plants. Avoid walking through dead leaves and other ground vegetation. Do not sit on fallen logs and avoid areas with large numbers of deer and rodents.
Check yourself for ticks. After being outdoors, check your clothes and skin for ticks. Use both a hand-held and a full-length mirror to view all of your skin. Pay special attention to areas with hair.
Use the clothes dryer. Putting clothing or bedding into a clothes dryer for one hour at high heat has been shown to kill ticks.
Keep in mind, if you find a tick on your skin, do not panic. Most ticks don't carry Lyme disease. The tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours before it might infect you.
If the tick is not yet attached to your skin, remove the tick with tweezers or a tissue and flush it down the toilet.
If the tick is attached to your skin, carefully remove it with tweezers as close to your skin as possible. If you can, save the tick in a tightly sealed glass or plastic container and take it to your healthcare provider. He or she may be able to have someone identify if it is the type of tick that transmits Lyme.