Have you ever enjoyed a walk in the woods only to have that experience spoiled hours later when you find a tick embedded in you?

Tick exposure can occur year-round, but ticks are most active during warmer months such as April through September. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside in these type areas can bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.

As many as 15 tick species live in Tennessee, but the four most common are the blacklegged tick, commonly called the “deer tick”; the Lone Star tick; the brown dog tick; and the American dog tick, sometimes called the “wood tick”.

The black legged tick (deer tick) is known to spread Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Lyme disease. This tick is found throughout all of Tennessee. The females are notable due to the white spot on their back. The American Dog tick is known to spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other spotted fever rickettsia. The Lone Star tick is known to spread ehrlichiosis and is believed to make some people allergic to red meat.

The best prevention is to avoid contact with ticks but that is not very practical if out in the woods, parks, pastures or even your own yard.

Tick bite prevention is important. Before you go outdoors treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends some registered insect repellents. External repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone can be  helpful. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.

After you come indoors, check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.

Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats and daypacks.

Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.

Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Give special attention to under the arms, in and around the ears, back of knees, in and around the hair and around the waist or anywhere there was tight clothing.

Ruth Correll is a UT Extension-TSU Cooperative Extension agent in Wilson County. Contact her at (615) 444-9584 or acorrell@utk.edu.

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