3 Simple Ways to Stay Tick-Free This Summer

Watch out for black-legged ticks, which can spread the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Watch out for black-legged ticks, which can spread the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. / James Gathany, CDC // Public Domain

As the weather gets warmer, you no doubt want to don your favorite shorts and get out in the sunshine. Unfortunately, shorts season coincides with tick season—and in 2021, experts are predicting a bumper crop of them in some regions of the country. The blood-sucking bugs aren't just annoying—they spread Lyme disease and several other serious illnesses, including a pathogen that can cause a sudden allergy to meat.

There are precautions you should take to stay safe from ticks and the risks they carry during the high season, which usually lasts from April to September (though some ticks can stay active year-round as long as it's above freezing). While ticks usually live in grassy or wooded areas, you should be careful even if you live in the city, because pathogen-spreading ticks can still be hiding in urban parks. Here's how you can fight ticks this summer.

1. Keep ticks off you by wearing the right clothes.

Tick prevention begins when you get dressed. Wear long sleeves and pants, and if you're in a tick-prone area, tuck your pants into your socks to better protect your legs. Opt for light-colored clothing, because it's easier to see bugs against a light color versus a dark one.

2. Keep ticks away by liberally applying insect repellent.

You'll want to invest in insect repellent, too, for yourself and your pets. The CDC recommends treating your clothing (and tents, and any outdoor gear) with permethrin, an insecticide that you can apply to fabric that will last through several washes. Permethrin not only repels ticks, but kills them if they do manage to get onto your clothes, and you can buy socks and other clothing that come pre-treated with it. Insect repellents containing at least 20 percent DEET are also effective against ticks.

Since ticks are most likely to make their way onto your feet and ankles, make sure to treat your shoes and socks. And since your dog is more likely to get a tick than you are, get Fido a tick collar or some other kind of tick medication.

3. Always check for ticks after you've been outside.

Most of all, you just need to stay vigilant. When you come inside from the outdoors, remove the clothing you wore outside and check your body for any ticks that may have latched on. Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, so be sure to look closely, or ask someone else to check hard-to-see places like your back. And since they like moist areas, don’t forget to give your armpits and groin a careful look. Taking a shower immediately after being outdoors will also prevent ticks from latching on. If you do catch a tick, remove it as soon as you can with a pair of tweezers. (And make sure you know your tick facts from your tick myths.)

Good luck out there.

This piece was updated in 2021.