Seven tips to help keep ticks away

Gig Conaughton

County of San Diego Communications Office

Sure, it’s the holiday season. But it’s also tick season.

That’s right. Tick season. Those little, eight-legged, bloodsucking parasites that are so creepy to find them latched onto adults, children or pets.

So, before taking advantage of the cooler weather to run outside and venture into nature, get armed with some simple protection tips – starting by wearing insect repellent and using flea and tick control products on pets.

Starting with protection is important because even though tick-borne illnesses are rare in San Diego County, ticks can potentially spread a bunch of diseases, including Lyme disease, tularemia, which is also known as rabbit fever, and spotted fever illnesses.

Ticks aren’t insects; they’re actually arachnids and are related to spiders, scorpions and mites. They have hard, flat external skeletons and they feed on blood. People are probably not going to run across them in urban or suburban areas, but they can be found in canyons or backcountry areas where people enjoy hiking.

Ticks “quest” to find hosts by crawling up onto blades of grass or brush, perching and thrusting their hook-like front legs out into the air. When a person or animal brushes by, the tick latches on and looks for a place to bite.

Use these seven tips to help keep ticks away.

First, wear insect repellent. When heading outside, wear insect repellent. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and find one that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or 2-Undecanone.

Next, stay on designated pathways. When hiking or walking in open space or canyon areas, stay on designated pathways. Choose wide trails and walk in the center. Remember, ticks “quest” for people and pets by crawling on leaves of grass or brush, waiting to latch on to passers-by.

Also, avoid grass and brush and don’t handle rodents. Try to stay out of grassy or brushy areas. Do not handle wild rodents. Yes, squirrels are cute, but they can come with their own menagerie of critters, including ticks, for one and fleas that can carry plague for another.

Be sure to frequently check clothing, body and companions for ticks. Adults should check themselves and their companions to make sure ticks haven’t hitched a ride. Dress for success. Ticks are small. Wear light clothing so they’re easier to spot. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to keep ticks away from skin.

It’s best to leave pets at home or to keep them leashed. Ticks love pets. Leaving them at home solves the problem, but if not, keep them leashed and on the trail. If the pet hasn’t already been treated with a tick and flea regimen, use insecticide powders or sprays labeled for tick control.

Before heading back inside, double-check all clothes, gear and pets for ticks. Ticks can hitchhike into a home on clothes and pets and bite later.

Lastly, if a tick bites someone or a pet, don’t panic. Just carefully and immediately remove it. Ticks burrow partway into the skin to feed. The CDC recommends removing ticks by grabbing the tick with tweezers as close to the tick’s head as possible and pulling out steadily and firmly.

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