It's summer, and you know what that means: long, sunny days; cool evenings by the pool; and the potential hazard of bug bites. Yikes! While it's normal to prepare for mosquitos and fleas in the warmer months, don't overlook ticks. These nasty critters like to attach themselves to people and animals and suck your blood (how very vampiric). They can carry a host of diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and more.

To avoid being targeted by one of the country's most hated parasites, use the following tips to stay safely pest-free!

Before going outside

  • Know that ticks live in moist, humid environments, especially near wooded or grassy areas. Avoid them by staying away from dense shrubbery and tall grasses, and by staying toward the center of any nature trails.
  • Treat clothing with permethrin, which kills ticks.
  • Use an insect repellent with DEET.

After coming inside

  • Check your clothing, body, and hair for ticks. The parasites can attach themselves to places you wouldn't expect such as the backs of knees, under the arms, or around the ears.
  • Shower as soon as you can. You can wash away any unattached ticks you may have overlooked during your body check. 

Prevent ticks in your yard

  • Consider using tick repellent or having a pest control expert come and spray for them. 
  • Keep your grass low and remove any leaf litter. 
  • Discourage deer from entering your yard, as they often play host to ticks. Remove any plants that attract deer and consider putting up a fence. 

What to do with an attached tick

If the worst-case scenario happens, and a tick does attach itself to you, don't fret. Here's what you can do to remove it:

  • Grasp the tick firmly around its head with tweezers, as close to the skin as possible.
  • Pull it straight out, being sure that you've removed the head.
  • Immediately wash the bite with soap and water.
  • Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet or submerging it in alcohol. Never crush it with your fingers.
  • Watch the bite for signs of infection, and monitor yourself for illness (such as a rash or fever) in the days and weeks to come, and see a health care provider if you have any concerns. 

Now that you know how to prevent and remove ticks, you can rest easier on any outdoor adventures you may go on. Here's to a happy (and tick-free) summer!