6 ways to get rid of ticks
And keep those suckers out your home
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While we don’t want to burst your bubble, that wonderfully warm and humid weather also means bugs are also on the way—especially ticks. If you want to fully enjoy your summer fun, you'll need to know how to get rid of ticks.
Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), says, “With much of the country headed towards a hot, rainy spring and summer, disease-transmitting pests like ticks and mosquitoes will be afforded ideal conditions for populations to thrive.”
No matter if you’re looking forward to springtime hikes or summertime lounging in the yard, ticks can make their way into your home no matter your lifestyle.
Here’s what you need to know about how to get rid of ticks in your house and on your person.
1. Determine how big a threat ticks are in your area
The problem with ticks and other parasitic insects is they run the full gamut from itchy annoyance to legitimate threat. There are hundreds of species of hard and soft ticks that exist around the world, and only a few species are known to bite and transmit diseases. Therefore, it's important to know what kind of ticks live in your geographic area to understand the risks of tick-borne diseases and accurately assess the threat they represent.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it’s crucial to know where ticks most commonly lurk in your area and to prepare accordingly. Ticks like to live in grassy, wooded, or brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. That being said, the CDC says many people encounter ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
If you don't live in an area where disease-bearing ticks are prevalent, or you don't live in an area where ticks thrive, congratulations: Your environment has gotten rid of the ticks for you. Feel free to skip the rest of the article and head outside to enjoy some cold drinks on a warm day.
2. Don’t let them hitch a ride with you
Still with us? Yeah, we live in tick country, too, so the name of the game is mitigating your risk—and your first line of protection from ticks (and ticks infected with Lyme Disease) is by keeping them away from your body.
Ticks are notorious for clinging onto your clothes, backpacks, your body, or your pets and making their way into the home. So, while you can tuck your pant legs into your socks, that won't get rid of ticks, it just gives them a longer climb until they hit skin, leaving you with bites undeterred by your defensive fashion faux pas.
While you don’t necessarily need to don bug spray every time you step outside to walk the dog or pull weeds, you should always try to be prepared when spending longer times outdoors, like when camping or hunting. Use an EPA-registered tick repellent containing an approved active ingredient such as DEET or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) while you’re outdoors.
It’s key to use your repellent correctly—just as you would with sunscreen—to make sure it’s getting the job done. Factors like temperature, water exposure, and perspiration can affect its efficacy. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label and to re-apply when it says it’s necessary to.
You should also treat your clothes, boots, and camping gear in advance of using them with products containing 0.5% permethrin if you’re planning to spend a decent amount of time outdoors or are planning an outdoor trip. This insecticide isn’t meant to be used on skin, but rather provides lasting protection on your items even after a few washes. Make sure to carefully follow the label instructions before applying.
Note: Permethrin, along with other insecticides, can be toxic to pets like cats.
If you are coming back home from outdoor activities or a heavily wooded, grassy, or bushy area, make sure to do a full-body check for ticks right when you get back. The CDC has a comprehensive list and visual graphic for where you should focus looking on the body. To check for ticks on pets, especially your dogs, look in and around the ears, the eyelids, around the collar, under and between the legs, and around the tail.
3. Clean your clothing and gear right away
Now that you've successfully kept ticks off your body, the next step in getting rid of ticks is immediately throwing your clothing and gear in the washing machine as soon as possible, making sure to use hot water. If you don’t have time to change clothing or your stuff can’t really be washed, try tumble drying them on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may be hiding in the fabric.
Also examine your backpacks, tents, and any other gear you took with you outdoors.
Once you’ve checked your body, clothes, and personal items, shower as soon as you can. The CDC says showering within two hours of coming indoors has been proven to reduce your risk of contracting Lyme disease and may reduce other tick-borne diseases. The shower is also a good place to double-check for ticks and get rid of any before they latch onto your skin.
4. Protect your pets, too
The CDC says dogs are particularly susceptible to tick bites and tickborne diseases, so it’s important to take the right precautions for our furry little friends. Besides, what's the point of using all these preventative measures on yourself when you're leaving the doggy door open for ticks to get inside your home? If you want to get rid of ticks, it's important to make sure a huge hole in your defenses like this gets plugged up properly—besides, you don't want your pets getting bitten either.
In addition to frequent full-body tick checks, you can also use tick prevention products like topical sprays or pills—but make sure you do so safely. Understand the benefits and potential risks of using tick products. The FDA has a thorough fact sheet that you can use. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian on what tick-prevention method is best for your pet.
5. Maintain your yard to keep ticks at bay
If you want to get rid of ticks before they get in your home, you can make your yard inhospitable to them using landscaping techniques.
We know that ticks love grass and woodsy areas. To make your yard less attractive to ticks, the CDC says you should clear out tall grass and brush that's around your home and at the edge of your lawn. Consistently clean the yard—mow frequently and rake up leaves. Remove any sort of trash where ticks can hide.
Keep playground equipment, patio, and other entertainment spots closer to the home and away from the edge of the perimeter, especially if your yard is surrounded by heavily wooded or grassy areas. You can also create a physical barrier between your yard and the rest of the outdoors to keep ticks away. The CDC recommends constructing a 3-foot-wide plot of wood chips or gravel, as this can deter ticks from migrating towards your home.
Many homeowners may opt for a chemical barrier. Have a licensed pest control applicator spray your yard or apply granules of insecticide on the edge of your yard. Do take into consideration that chemical barriers may not be a good option for homeowners with pets, so be sure to take precaution and understand the risks in determining what’s right for you.
6. Kill ticks if they still get inside
If you find a tick lurking in your home, don’t panic. Indoor tick infestations aren’t particularly common, as ticks can’t survive without that warm, humid air—but finding stray ticks in your home isn’t far-fetched.
If the tick hasn’t latched onto your skin or your pet, ticks are easy to remove. Don’t try to squeeze or crush a tick, especially with your fingers. The CDC says to dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol and sealing it in a plastic bag or container, or flushing it down the toilet.
How to remove ticks that do make it past your defenses
Even with all the prep work in the world, one of these tiny bugs might find a way past your defenses and wind up biting into you or your pet. If that does happen, follow this guide adapted by the CDC and the University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center on how to remove it:
1. Get a pair of tweezers with thin, pointy tips.
2. Disinfect the tick bite area with rubbing alcohol.
3. Grab the tick close to the skin and use a slow, steady motion to pull the tick out. Don't yank or jerk the tick.
4. Disinfect the tick bite again
5. Over the next few weeks, watch for symptoms of tick-borne diseases, including rashes, fevers, and flu-like aches and pains.
If ticks are common in your area, you may want to invest in a pocket-sized tool like a tick key.
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