As you hike, run and bushwhack through the woods this summer, chances are good you’ll run into one of humanity’s least favorite forest creatures: ticks. Ticks burrow into the skin and can pass along a host of nasty diseases, including babesiosis, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, according to Harvard Health Publications. Furthermore, they can be a real pain to get rid of.
When it comes to removing ticks, folk remedies abound. Popular techniques include covering the tick with petroleum jelly to suffocate it or touching it with a hot match or freezing object. While these approaches are meant to make the tick let go, they often cause it to hold on more tightly, burrow deeper and deposit more of its secretions into the wound, increasing the risk of disease or infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to remove a tick is to use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it out with a steady motion. Once it’s off, dispose of the tick by putting it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet and clean the skin with soap and water.
If you want to avoid ticks altogether, there are a few things you can try, according to Harvard Health Publications.
- Avoid Tick Habitat: This includes brush and high grass near wooded areas
- Wear Light Colors: Your clothing will contrast with dark-colored ticks, making them easier to spot
- Tuck Your Pants Into Your Socks: This will make it harder for the tick to get onto your skin
- Apply Insect Repellent: It’s best to use a mixture that is between 30 and 40 percent DEET. Keep in mind that the repellent Picaridin repels mosquitos, but not ticks.
- Walk in the Middle of the Path: Ticks can’t fly or jump, so this will make it harder for them to reach you
- Stick to Dry, Open Areas: Ticks prefer woody, shaded spots
Even with these precautions, be sure to check yourself and your pets after a day outside. Don’t forget the leg and groin area. Ticks will often climb up the body before burrowing into the skin.