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Protecting yourself against Ticks and Mosquitoes

posted May 22, 2014, 11:26 AM by Cub Scout Pack 592   [ updated May 13, 2015, 3:25 PM ]
The weather is getting warmer and that means everyone is outside more. It also means that mosquitoes and ticks are now more active as well. While there is no need to panic and shut yourself away during the summer months, there are a couple of common sense precautions and procedures you can easily take.

Preventing Tick and Mosquito Bites

Preventing Ticks
It's always best to try and prevent a bite in the first place. A good way to start is to stick to maintained trails when walking in natural areas and when possible walk in the middle of the trail. Also, wearing long pants and boots can help mitigate the risks of bug bites. If traveling in areas where ticks are known to inhabit it's best practice to tuck pant legs into your socks or boots to help keep bugs on the outside.

It's also a good idea to use repellents to prevent the ticks and mosquitoes from landing on you in the first place. Repellents should contains 20% to 30% DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) and can be used on exposed skin and clothing. This protection is usually good for several hours. Parents should help younger children apply the product and make sure to avoid the hands, eyes, and mouth. 

You can also look for other alternatives to DEET. For instance there is an ingredient called Picaridin that can also be effective. It only lasts about an hour so it needs to be reapplied often. There is also a substance called IR3535 that when used in concentrations of 20% can be effective for up to 8 hours. Higher concentrations can damage plastics or fabrics though. If you prefer not to expose anyone to harsh chemicals then lotions and sprays containing lemon eucalyptus oil can often provide longer lasting protection without the artificial chemicals.

Clothing and gear like boots, socks, pants, tents, and backpacks can be treated with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Gear treated this way remains protective through many washings. Some commercially available pre-treated clothing may be protective even longer.

The EPA keeps a list of registered repellents and you can compare them at the following location:

Checking for Ticks

After a walk in the woods it's a good idea to bathe or shower as soon as you can, and preferably within two hours. This will help make it easier to find any ticks that may of come along for the ride. You should then do a full body check for ticks using a hand-held or full length mirror. Parents should check their children and pay special attention to under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially the hair.

After you have checked yourself, check your gear to any ticks that may get brought into the house and then attach to a person or pet. Clothes can be put into a tumble dryer on high heat for an hour before washing to kill any ticks that may be on the clothing. If you brought your pet along for the walk, thoroughly check it as well to be sure there are no ticks tagging along. Commercially available flea and tick treatments and preventives are readily available for pets and should be used, especially in the warmer months. Consult your veterinarian for what would work best for your pet.

I Found a Tick!

First, as any groovy frood will tell you, "Don't Panic!" If removed within a few hours of attachment, the health risks are very low of contracting anything from the tick bite. The important thing is to remove it right away. There are commercially available tick removal devices available, but a set of fine-tipped tweezers will work just as well.

How to Remove a Tick

You want to remove the tick right away, not just encourage it to detach. Stay away from folk remedies like "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly or using heat to force it to detach. To remove a tick, just follow the following steps:

  1. Using a pair of fine tip tweezers, grab the tick at the head as close to the skin as possible. Avoid squeezing the body as you want to prevent injecting yourself with any fluids that may be in the ticks belly.
  2. Pull the tick upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick which this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If some of the mouth or head remains in the skin then remove those mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove all of the mouth easily with clean tweezers then leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After the tick is removed, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Additionally, antiseptic first aid ointments may be applied to the area as well.
How to Remove a Tick: Step 1 - Grab the Head How to Remove a Tick: Step 2 - Pull Upwards
Graphics courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control

What Do I Do Now?

Keep an eye on the bite area. If you develop a rash (especially a target shaped rash) or flu-like symptoms within weeks of removing the tick, see your primary care doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about the tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick. This will aid in your doctor's diagnosis. For more information on symptoms of tickborne illnesses, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) site at