Ticks are biting early this year: How to protect yourself

Consumer Reports News: May 03, 2013 04:23 PM

If you'll be doing yard work, hiking, or just sitting on the lawn in the spring loveliness this weekend, be aware that you might not be alone out there: It's tick time again.

Reports out of several states indicate that tick season is off to an early start in many areas, driven partly by a mild winter and warm spring. Bites from the tiny deer ticks prevalent in the Northeast and upper Midwest can transmit Lyme disease and other illnesses. And ticks in other areas can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever and anaplasmosis, another bacterial disease.

So it's important to start taking precautions now that you might normally associate more with summer, like tucking your pants into your socks or spraying your clothes down with deet before doing yard work. Here are specific steps for staying tick-free and safe all season long:

  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, socks, and closed-toe shoes when walking through wooded or grassy areas. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks.
  • Spray clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellent containing up to 30 percent deet or another effective bug-repelling ingredient. See which insect repellents were rated tops in Consumer Reports' last tests. Follow the directions on the label and rinse the product off when you get back inside.
  • Inspect your skin when you go indoors, including your armpits and groin. If you find a tick attached, use tweezers to gently remove it, taking care to get the whole body out, including the head. You might want to save the tick in a plastic bag in case it needs to be tested later for Lyme disease or other bacteria.

First aid for bug bites and other summer woes.

The ticks that carry Lyme disease usually have to feed on your body for at least 36 hours in order to transmit it. So if you're vigilant about searching for and removing ticks, you can greatly reduce your risk. Call your doctor if you develop symptoms that could indicate a tick-borne illness, including a circular "bullseye"-shaped rash, fever, muscle aches, or joint pain.

Jamie Kopf

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