The good news about ticks (if there is any good news) is that it takes several hours for them to transmit an infection to you, even after they’ve latched on. Lyme, for instance, is thought to take up to six hours to move from tick to host. That means as long as you’re vigilant about looking for ticks and remove them immediately, you can prevent the spread of even the scariest stuff.
To remove a tick, use a pair of pointed tweezers to grasp its head, flush with your skin, and gently pull up until it releases. Do not use other methods that could encourage a tick to voluntarily release due to suffocation—Vaseline, nail polish, etc.—the idea is to get it off as soon as possible to minimize your risk of infection.
Ticks hide in grasses and brush and latch onto humans and animals as they pass. Wearing full-length pants, tall socks, long-sleeve shirts, and the like can help keep them off you. Wearing light colors can help you more easily spot ticks as they look for a way to reach your skin.
Ticks on Your Pets
Going over your pet with a fine comb, which allows you to see its skin, as well as checking inside the ears, under the tail, and in other dark recesses, remains the most effective way to keep your dog safe from ticks. If you’re camping, hiking, or otherwise spending time outdoors, do this throughout the day and remove ticks immediately using the same procedure you’d use on yourself.
Ticks in Your Yard
Seventy-five percent of Lyme disease cases are contracted around the home. Ticks are not something you’ll encounter just while camping.
Ticks require rodent hosts for the first stages of their lifecycle, so eliminating rats, mice, and similar critters from your home and yard is an important first step in reducing the number of ticks on your property. You can also reduce tick habitat by clearing leaf litter and brush, regularly mowing your lawn, and eliminating trash. It’s thought that by surrounding your lawn with a barrier of mulch or gravel, you can prevent ticks from migrating into your grass from the surrounding forest.
Disposing of Ticks
Never crush a tick between your fingers—doing so can expose you to any diseases it may carry. Instead, flush it down a drain, drown it in alcohol or gasoline, bind it up in tape, or burn it. If you’re in the outdoors and find one on you or your pet but don’t have access to the above methods, just fling it away. Again, time is of the essence. There is no better time to remove and dispose of a tick than right now.