Disease-carrying ticks are terrors, but there are ways to stay safe
Protect yourself from tick bites with these smart strategies.
1. Stick to the middle
When you're on a hike or walking through a wooded area, avoid the edges of paths and trails, where ticks are more prevalent.
2. Wear white
Teeny-tiny ticks are easier to spot against light-colored duds. (If you spot a tick on your clothes, try this method to quickly get them off.)
3. Protect your noggin
Don't think ticks are only in the grass. "Brushing against a tree could easily leave one in your hair," says Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. Try donning a cap or tying hair back, and use repellent on your face. (Spray into hands and then apply with your fingers.)
4. Hike up your socks
And tuck your pant legs into them. Fashionable, it's not. But every inch of exposed skin matters.
5. Treat your clothes
If you're heading into tick-heavy backcountry for days, consider applying the insecticide permethrin to your clothes (it can last through up to six washes), as well as spraying repellent on skin not covered by clothing. "Ticks are crafty, so you want to use multiple types of protection," says Paul Mead, MD, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Lyme disease program.
6. Double-check your damp bits
Ticks love dark, moist areas, so when you're looking for them, focus on the groin, backs of the knees, and armpits. "Women often forget their bra line, but that's a tick's dream spot," says Andrea Gaito, MD, a rheumatologist and Lyme specialist based in Basking Ridge, N.J.
7. Hit the shower
A full-body tick check and a pair of tweezers should be your first line of defense. But you might be able to scrub away any ticks you miss—and slash your risk of tick-borne disease—when you lather up. "Water alone won't do the trick, because you need a bit of resistance to remove ticks," says Dr. Gaito. So grab a loofah!