Ticks suck! This is technically true since ticks literally suck the blood of their chosen host. But this is also figuratively true. Ticks are pesky little buggers that leave itchy bites, spread dangerous diseases, and just plain gross people out.
If you spend any amount of time in the woods during warm weather, you’re likely to pick up ticks, especially if you don’t take a few simple steps to help avoid these unwanted hitchhikers.
The Center For Disease Control recommends always walking in the center of trails in order to avoid ticks. This isn’t always practical for the typical sportsman who is looking for game in deeper darker woods than a well-worn trail provides. So here are some more practical solutions to help keep tick-free and still get “out there” in the woods.
1. Use an insect repellent that contains DEET.
DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is one of the few insect repellents that works for discouraging ticks from the walking buffet that is you in the woods. Great for camping, hiking, and even dove and rabbit hunting, DEET containing insect repellents do leave a chemical smell, so using for hunting animal where scent control is important (like bow hunting) is just not practical. So…
2. Use an insect repellent with permethrin.
This common synthetic chemical is used on clothing. It is not intended for contact with the skin, so clothes should be treated and allowed to thoroughly dry before wearing. Unlike DEET containing insect repellents, permethrin is virtually scent-free once dry, making permethrin the go to insect repellent for early fall bow hunters. Be sure to treat all of your outer clothing, including your boots and hat.
3. Wear tighter clothing.
While it may not always be practical to wear form-fitting clothing while in the field, you can take measures to keep ticks from getting up under clothing to your skin. If possible, wear a tight-fitting under layer, like Under Armor or Scent Lock. Tuck your pants’ legs into your socks and boots, and wear shirts with elastic armbands.
4. Check for ticks regularly.
Most ticks pose little danger if removed within 24 hours of attaching. So immediately returning from tick infested areas, remove your clothing (important because there may still be ticks crawling around looking for a meal. Toss those clothes in the washer or seal in a plastic bag.) and check your body thoroughly for ticks. If you have children playing in the outdoors, be sure to help them check for ticks, since they are not as likely to do a thorough job. Be sure to check in and around hair, under arms, behind ears, the back of and between the legs, and around the waist, since these are some of a ticks favorite places to dig in. If possible shower soon after being outdoors. This can reduce your risk of being bitten by a tick that may still be crawling around looking for a tasty location.
5. If you find a tick, remove it immediately.
The sooner you get that sucker out, the less likely it is to transmit disease. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady even pressure. Don’t snatch, twist, or jerk, since this can break off the ticks mouth parts and leave them embedded. If the mouth does detach, remove with tweezers. If you are unable to remove detached mouth parts, the CDC recommends leaving them alone and allowing the skin to heal.
Don’t let the ticks scare you indoors. Just do what you can to help prevent infection.