Checking for Tick Bites: How To Prevent Lyme Disease

Summer is right around the corner, and for those who spend more time in suburban or rural areas this blessing always comes with the curse of checking for tick bites. Blacklegged ticks––also known as deer ticks––are infamously known for their ability to spread Lyme Disease- an illness that can cause a multitude of symptoms such as joint inflammation and body aches, nausea, fever, headaches, and swollen lymph nodes. Although it takes some time and effort, there are several things the CDC recommends one do in order to prevent tick bites.


Before You Go Outside…

Before hiking in the forest or walking in the meadow, you probably head to the store to purchase mosquito repellent, but make sure that you also invest in a good tick repellent, too. Make sure these products contain...

  • Permethrin- you can use Permethrin on “boots, clothing and camping gear.” [CDC]
  • DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide)- 20% or more. DEET should be applied to skin, avoiding contact with the mouth and eyes, can “protect up to several hours.” [CDC]

If you hike with long pants on, make sure that you wear long socks to pull up over the ankle area and onto the pant leg so that ticks cannot come into contact with skin.


When You Come Inside…

It’s surprisingly easy to overlook a tick crawling on your leg or arm, as some of them can be incredibly tiny. The CDC recommends a few steps that you can take to further prevent tick bites…

  • First and foremost, carefully take a look at your clothing for any ticks. Do not wipe your legs, as they may be flicked off and into the house. If you see a tick, grab it with a pair of tweezers or a tissue and dispose of it by flushing it down the toilet. Place your clothes in the dryer and put it on high heat- this should kill any unseen ticks. If you are washing your clothes, make sure you use hot water, as cooler temperatures do not kill ticks.
  • Take a shower. The running water can help wash unattached ticks off of the body. “Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease.” [CDC]
  • Lastly, check your body. Always use a full-body (or hand-held) mirror to make sure you cover as much area as possible. Common places to miss seeing ticks are…
  • Inside––and the back of––the ears
  • The underarms
  • In the belly button
  • Behind the knees
  • In the hair/hairline and back of the neck
  • Inner thighs
  • The whole buttocks area


If You Find An Attached Tick…

If you happen to find an attached tick, use a pair of tweezers and carefully grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull it straight out.

Over the next week, make sure to check the area for any sort of rash. Tick bites are most known for the “bullseye” rash they can leave behind. Take your temperature every day, and note any flu-like symptoms. This could be a symptom of lyme disease.


If You Think You May Have Lyme Disease…

Call your primary care immediately. When getting tested for Lyme, make sure that if your doctor uses the Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test, that they also use the Western Blot Test as the ELISA test can provide false-positives. If you are tested within two months after being infected OR 1 year after being infected, the ELISA test may not read as positive at all. This is why it is important to also receive the Western Blot Test, which will usually confirm the diagnosis as it detects antibodies to several proteins of Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria transmitted from Lyme). [MayoClinic]