Preventing Tick Bites: Safety Tips You Should Know

In the midst of tick season, experts are offering helpful suggestions to avoid bites that can lead to Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended treating clothes with insect repellents or products containing 0.5 percent permethrin.

Evidence was also gathered to back up the recommendation as a new study by researchers from the CDC demonstrated how clothing treated with the insecticide permethrin may help in preventing bites from three major species of ticks. The findings were published in the Journal of Medical Entomology on May 24.

In their experiments, they tested shirts, pants, and socks made from permethrin-treated clothing which were found to have strong toxic effects on ticks. Senior author Dr. Lars Eisen explained how contact with permethrin-treated clothing for up to 5 minutes resulted in a “loss of normal movement for all examined tick species and life stages, leaving them unable to bite.”

“Ultimately, we'd like to be able to provide more specific guidance about the use of permethrin-treated clothing, including what types of clothing provide the best protection. Additional research in this area can improve public health recommendations.”

People who live in or near the woods or spend a lot of time outdoors due to the nature of their work were considered to be at high risk of getting bitten. Performing a simple tick check after moving around in such areas can be helpful. Ticks tend to latch onto warm parts of the body like the underarms, groin, hairline, back, etc. 

If a person has found a tick attached to their skin, they should use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin as possible. The tick should then be pulled in the upwards direction without twisting or crushing it. After removal, clean the area using alcohol or soap and water.

Experts warn against incorrect removal methods such as crushing the tick with one's hands, trying to burn it off, or applying petroleum jelly and nail polish on the tick. In fact, heat can actually increase the tick's saliva production, which could elevate the risk of disease transmission, said Professor Kevin Macaluso from the Louisiana State University school of veterinary medicine.

Pet owners must also take precautions, even if they live in a city area far from the woods. When outside, owners should regularly check their dogs who may be susceptible to tick bites and tickborne diseases. Veterinarians also recommend oral or topical preventative treatments over natural repellants like apple cider vinegar. 

"This will not allow the tick to take a proper blood meal on your dog so in order for Lyme disease to be transmitted,"  said Dr. Carly Fox from the Animal Medical Center in New York City. "The tick needs to be feeding for about 24 hours, so if your dog is properly medicating the tick will fall off and die."