people hiking in the woods

Bugs can be more than just an annoyance, they can make you sick—especially ticks.

Ticks typically feed on birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. The highest risk of human infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is greatest in late spring and summer.

While Lyme disease, is most commonly associated with ticks, there are a number of diseases the insects can carry. And different ticks can carry various diseases.

How to protect yourself

First, avoiding ticks is your best course of prevention. Ticks thrive in brush, high grass and heavily wooded areas. If you run, walk or hike wooded trails, try to stay in the center of the trail. You also want to make sure and use a bug repellent that contains 20-30 percent DEET. Apply repellent to clothing and exposed skin. For children, please talk to your child’s pediatrician about what is best to use for what ages.

When you are done with your outdoor activities, bathe or shower as soon as possible. If you’ve been in potential tick-infested area, examine your body for ticks. You will also want to search your animals for ticks, as well as your vehicle or any gear you had with you on your outing.

If you have pets that spend time outside, check them daily. Also talk to your veterinarian about tick prevention available for your pet.

[tweetthis tweet=”The old tales of removing ticks can actually cause more harm than good.” hashtag=”Ticks” hashtag=”Summer”]

Removing ticks

What do you do if you see a tick on you, a family member or a pet?

The CDC recommends the following steps:

  1. Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  4. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

And, we’ve all heard old tales of removing ticks – don’t use those methods. They often aren’t effective in removing the tick and can cause harm to your skin.

Next steps

If you’ve been bitten by a tick, removed it properly, but are experiencing other health issues, call your doctor. Symptoms to watch for include a rash, fever/chills, and aches and pains.

Infographic about ticks and how to deal with them


Need a physician? Request an appointment online with a UofL Physicians provider or call (502) 588-6000.

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Article by:

M. Eli Pendleton, M.D.

Dr. Eli Pendleton is an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine. He serves as medical director for the ULP Family Medicine Newburg clinic site, and is associate program director for the Family Medicine Residency Program. He received his medical degree from University of Kentucky, and did his residency training at University of Virginia. Areas of interest include Evidence-Based Medicine and Information Mastery, resident education, and LGBT health needs.

All posts by M. Eli Pendleton, M.D.
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