Summer is typically a time for Americans to get more time outdoors, and that may feel more necessary than ever after spending so long cooped up at home during a pandemic.
But while there may be a lower risk of Covid-19 transmission outside, there are other illnesses you can encounter in nature. Some of those come from tiny arachnids called ticks.
Ticks don’t fly, but they can latch onto your skin and in some cases, get you sick. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe this summer.
Lyme disease is one of the most common diseases carried by ticks. It’s most frequently reported in the upper Midwestern and Northeastern United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms show up three to 30 days after a tick bite. They can include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint aches. About 70% to 80% of infected patients get a rash, which expands over time and sometimes has a bull’s-eye appearance.
Other tick-borne diseases include anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, spotted fever rickettsiosis and tularemia. These are also mostly found in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the US.
Ticks are most active in the warmer months – April through September – according to the CDC. They live in grassy, shrub-laden or wooded areas, and can latch on to you if you brush past whatever they are resting on. So if you’re on hiking trails, for example, walk in the center of them.
Another precaution the CDC recommends is using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone.
After you come indoors, you’ll want to check your clothes and skin for ticks.
Tumble-dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on garments that aren’t being washed. If you do wash your clothing, use hot water.
Do a full body check, especially under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, the back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around the waist.
If you find a tick on your skin or that of your children, remove it right away. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Steadily pull straight up. Then disinfect your hands, the affected skin area and the tweezers.
If you have a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, the CDC recommends seeing your doctor.
Don’t forget your pets
Your pets can also get tick-borne diseases. The CDC says dogs are very susceptible to tick bites, which may be hard to detect.
Signs of tick-borne disease may not show up for at least one to three weeks after a bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you think that has happened, the agency says.
Keep ticks away from pets in your backyard by applying pesticides outdoors, removing leaf litter and tall grasses, placing a 3-foot-wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas, and stacking wood neatly and in a dry area.
Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from yard edges and trees, use fences to keep out unwelcome animals, such as deer or raccoons, and remove old furniture or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.