While it’s possible for ticks that carry Lyme disease or other tick-borne infections to be present year-round, they’re especially active in the spring and the summer months. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and it’s a good reminder to exercise extra caution when you’re outdoors. To prevent tick bites when you’re outside, following these recommendations, according to the CDC.

1. Be cautious of your surroundings.

Wooded areas, leaf litter, and tall, overgrown grass are among the favorite hangouts for ticks. Steer clear of these areas as much as possible. If you enjoy hiking, walking, or running in wooded areas, try to stay in the middle of the paths or trails.

2. Use tick repellent.

The CDC recommends using a long-lasting tick repellent on your skin that consists of at least 20% DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. When applying the product on children, use the product as instructed.

If you’re looking for a natural alternative to chemical sprays, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, thyme, and geraniol essential oils have tick-repellent qualities and are commercially available at many stores.

3. Spray your clothes.

Planning to be outdoors for several hours to days? If so, consider pre-treating your clothes with a product containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin lasts for several washes and can also be used on outdoor gear like tents and hiking boots. Additionally, you can purchase pre-treated clothing from a variety of well-known sporting goods stores.

4. Bathe when you come indoors.

The CDC suggests bathing within two hours of coming indoors to wash off or identify any ticks that may be crawling on you.

5. Perform tick checks.

When you come in from outside, scan your body for ticks. This time of year, nymph ticks are the most active and may be small (like the size of a poppy seed) and can easily go undetected. Use a mirror so you can check your entire body, paying particular attention to the more hidden places like the belly button, behind the ears, the scalp, the armpits, the groin, and the back of the knees.

If you find a tick, promptly remove it by placing a fine-pointed pair of tweezers between the skin and the tick, and pull it straight out. You may want to save the tick to be tested and consider talking with your doctor. In highly endemic areas, your physician may choose to do a prophylactic course of antibiotics, or they may take a different approach to monitoring tick-borne diseases.

6. Check your outdoor gear.

Ticks can hitch a ride on practically any item, so be sure to carefully look over your things before bringing them into the house.

7. Inspect your pets.

Another vehicle ticks can use to move from one place to another is your pets. In addition to examining your pet’s fur, the American Kennel Club recommends looking in their ears, between their toes, under their tail, in the genital area, around their eyes, and under a collar or harness.

If you’re unsure of how to protect your pet this season, talk with your veterinarian about your options.

8. Dry your clothing using high heat.

To kill ticks that might be on your clothing, use the highest heat setting on your dryer for 10 minutes—ticks can withstand cold and medium temperatures.

Many people who contract Lyme disease or other tick-borne infections have no recollection of being bitten by one of these bloodsuckers. Although it may seem like a hassle, take tick prevention seriously because a small tick bite can cause significant health problems.

Jennifer Lelwica Buttaccio

Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio, OTR/L, is a Chicago-based, freelance lifestyle writer, licensed occupational therapist, and certified Pilates instructor. Her expertise is in health, wellness, fitness, and chronic illness management.

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