The Top 5 Ways to Ward Off Ticks

Around this time of year, we always end our day hikes with a “tick check” to make sure no uninvited guests have hitched a ride.

In recent years, an increasing number of people in the United States have contracted lyme disease from ticks, and spring and summer are the peak seasons for ticks. Tom Mather (aka the TickGuy) of the University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center, shares his five top actions to prevent tick bites, whether you’re on the trail, traveling, or even hanging out in the backyard.

1. Know The Enemy

0531131The first step is to know the enemy and when they are active! This means being aware of the types of ticks common where you live or where you plan on adventuring! Most human-biting tick species found in the US have their own set of germs. Blacklegged tick (a.k.a. deer tick) diseases differ greatly from dog tick, wood tick and Lone Star tick diseases. If blacklegged ticks aren’t common or active where you are, then neither will be the risk for Lyme disease. Before leaving home, don’t forget to check the current tick activity and the most likely tick bite threat for wherever your trail leads. Also review this Tick Identification Chart to help assess the type of tick and tick diseases you may encounter!

2. Perform Daily Tick Checks

0531132When was the last time you REALLY checked those places where only ticks can crawl? For tiny nymph ticks (the middle stage of the tick’s life cycle) it would be below the waist where clothing constricts. The best time to think about doing a tick check is when you can look carefully at your entire body – when you’re naked and there’s light. Great opportunities for daily tick checks are either before or after a shower, or maybe when you’re using the toilet. You probably never thought of that as an opportunity to be TickSmart, did you? Get in the habit at home by putting Daily TickCheck Reminder Cards in your bathroom.

3. Turn “Outdoor Clothes” Into Tick-Repellent Clothes

0531133Those clothes you hike, bike, garden and play in can easily be turned into TickSafe clothing! While DEET-containing sprays work well to confuse all types of biting flies, the best TICK repellent can be found in your clothing, as long as they’re permethrin treated. Insect Shield, a Greensboro, NC company treats clothing with 0.5% permethrin  that remains effective against blacklegged ticks even after an incredible 70 washes (it works against other ticks, too). Besides their own brand of clothing, the company treats clothes for major retailers such as LL Bean, REI, Columbia and ExOfficio among others. Insect Shield also will treat your own clothes for a very reasonable price. Turning outdoor clothes into tick-repellent clothing makes being TickSmart as easy as getting dressed in the morning!

4. Treat Your Yard

0531134Protect yourself from ticks during those more mundane adventures at home, like mowing, pruning, and weeding by treating your property with safe tick-killing sprays. By knowing what kind of ticks you have (see #1 above), you can better target the timing and the habitat that needs to be treated. Blacklegged ticks prefer shady, humid habitat while American dog tick and Lone Star ticks don’t mind a little sun. If you’re concerned about costs, a few well-timed, habitat-targeted spray treatments will usually produce excellent results with the least effort. Watch this perimeter spray video to get ideas on how to make your yard a TickSafe haven!

5. Protect Your Pet

0531135While no one wants their pet to get a tickborne disease, even worse is when ticks latch on to your pet’s fur and hitch a ride into your home or car – places where most people stop worrying about ticks. Ticks that haven’t bitten your pet by the time they come inside could just as easily decide that you are fair game and less furry, too. A TickSmart best practice is to treat your pet with a product that kills ticks quickly or makes them detach rapidly. Combine actions #3 and #5 to get the best tick bite protection “on both ends of the leash”.

For more TickSmart Tips and tools, visit


Click here to read a previous TAP story with more details on tick prevention.



Dacia Daly and Cara Sullivan have worked with the TickEncounter Research Center to develop blogs and other tick bite prevention information to extend the reach of TickEncounter’s prevention messages.

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