Don't let ticks take a bite out of your summer

Hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain biking … in the Pacific Northwest, we’re all about recreational activities. Unfortunately ticks thrive in our outdoor playground.

Ticks are most active from May through July, hanging out in wooded, brushy, grassy places and shrub lands. Although tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease, are rarely seen in the Pacific Northwest, they can be serious.

By taking a few simple precautions, you can enjoy the outdoors without fearing ticks.

Avoiding ticks

When working or playing in tick country:

  • Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a hat with a flap or brim to protect your neck.
  • Tuck your pant legs into your socks or hiking boots, or wear gaiters.
  • Choose light-colored clothing so you can find ticks more easily if they hitch a ride.
  • Spray Permethrin, a tick repellant, on your clothing, not on your skin. It is more effective than DEET.
  • Check your clothes, your body, your children and your pets carefully for ticks. Look closely at the scalp, neck, ears, underarms, groin and back of the knees. You’re looking for a small, dark-colored insert or what appears to be a raised freckle or dirt spot.
  • Shower or bathe within two hours of activity, if possible.

Removing a tick

If you find a tick on clothing or skin, brush it off. If you find a tick that has already burrowed into the skin, follow these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, using fine-tipped tweezers.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick as this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in your skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  • Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in rubbing 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.
  • Avoid "home remedies," such as touching the tick with nail polish, petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol or a hot match. These techniques don’t work and may cause more damage.

If you are bitten by a tick, watch for symptoms of a rash or fever. Contact your doctor if you develop symptoms or have concerns.