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How to Get Rid of Ticks

Updated on July 1, 2009

As a hiker myself, there is nothing I enjoy more than being out on the trail and enjoying nature.  The occasional glimpse of wildlife, the green foliage, and the scenic overlooks all make hiking the enjoyable activity that it is.  Unfortunately when in nature, you have to deal with the occasional parasites that are looking for a host on which to survive. 

One parasite that will likely try to make your body its home is the tick.  Ticks are a bloodsucking parasite from the arachnid family that are generally found in tall grass or shrubs.  Sound like a trail you've been on recently?  The danger of ticks is that they transmit diseases such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever - these are not exactly your garden variety flu virus that you come down with each year.

Common myths say that ticks will "jump" onto a host.  This is not true.  They don't jump and they don't fly either.  Ticks get onto a host by physical contact.  You brush up against a bush, or walk through tall grass or weeds and they stick to your clothing.  They also are found in trees, so it is possible that a tick will fall out of the tree and into your hair or onto your body.  Again - it's not flying, it's falling...

How to Avoid Ticks

Your best bet for dealing with the threat of ticks is to not get a tick on our body in the first place. Of course this may be easier said than done, but there are steps you can take to make sure you don't become the host that a tick decides to feast on.

  1. When hiking it is always a good idea to wear the right clothing. Wear long pants and long socks. If you're really paranoid tuck your pants into your socks. Also wear a long sleeve shirt. It might be hot, but if you're really concerned about ticks, you want take all precautionary steps you possibly can. Tuck your shirt in. You'd be amazed what these little arachnids can get into. On a recent hiking trip, a friend of mine was doing everything correctly, long pants, long sleeve shirt, yet he still managed to have a tick crawl up his leg. As I mentioned earlier, ticks can fall from trees, so it's a good idea to wear a hat on your head. Without a careful inspection, it may be difficult to detect a tick that is in your hair.
  2. If you have any exposed body areas - spray it with an insect repellent that contains DEET. Be wary though that DEET can cause cancer. Spray the repellent at all openings in your clothing as well.
  3. You also want to avoid bush whacking if possible - that is, stay on the marked trails. Remember that ticks attach to your body by physical contact. If you're not brushing your legs against bushes and other foliage, your likelihood of attracting a tick will be significantly reduced.

Even though you've taken all the precautionary steps to avoid ticks in the first place, immediately scan your body once returning for a hike.  Ticks are attracted to heat sources in dark areas.  Pay special attention to your groin and the back of your legs.  You should check your body from head to toe - if possible, have someone else examine your head or other hide to see places.

If you find a tick remove it immediately!

Deer tick embedded in a young child's head.
Deer tick embedded in a young child's head.

How to Remove a Tick

If you are unlucky enough to have attracted a tick, then you're going to want to remove it as soon as possible. There are many home remedies that suggest you should use a match to burn it out, or pour gasoline on it. Don't do that. While you may have some luck with these methods, it is not the recommended approach.

Use a pair of tweezers to remove the tick from your body. Make sure you grab the tick as closely as your skin as possible to hopefully remove the entire tick at once. If you tear the tick in half or parts of the tick (the feeding tube or or cutting mandibles, for example) remain in embedded in the skin, use the tweezers to remove these last parts as well. Avoid using your fingers to pinch it off as you may squish the tick and spread any potential diseases to your hands.

Pull the tick straight out and perpendicular to your skin. The tick may not come easily as it has embedded its cutting mandibles into your skin and firmly fixed itself in place. You may have to work it out slowly and gently.

Make sure to dispose of the tick and do not let it live to infect someone else. Do not use your bare hands to kill the tick -- use a napkin or a piece of paper to squeeze it to death. Don't try smashing it with your foot. Ticks are small and may simply land in between the treads of your shoes. Also you may spread the disease to your shoes, and if you handle them with our hands the disease could spread (or perhaps Fido may decide to lick the bottom of your shoe - don't want that now!)

Once you've removed the tick, be sure to thoroughly cleanse the area with soap and water to help prevent infection.  Also make sure to thoroughly wash your hands so as not to spread any possible germs you have picked up when removing the tick.

If you start noticing any flu like symptoms, rashes, or anything else out of the ordinary, seek immediate medical attention as you may have contracted some sort of disease.

Most importantly be safe!

Other Helpful Resources

This hub is a good start to managing any ticks you may run across, but highly recommend purchasing a more complete resource. The book I would recommend is A Field Guide to Ticks: Prevention and Treatment of Lyme Disease and Other Ailments Caused by Ticks, Scorpions, Spiders, and Mites. The nice thing about a book like this is it's easy enough to throw in a backpack - I doubt you're going to get a good wifi connection in the middle of a trail to reference this hub. :) It's highly informative, and is a good resource for the safety conscious hiker.

If you found this hubpage informative, you may also find these other hubs helpful to deal with your pest problems.

How to Get Rid of Mice
How to Get Rid of Ants

Best of luck with your pest and parasite problems!


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    • profile image

      ouch 8 years ago

      i have a tick on my head ..

      i wonder how ill get that out? i can't see it!

    • Camping Stuff profile image

      Camping Stuff 8 years ago from Missouri

      Great post about ticks and how to avoid or remove them. Thanks for the information.

    • E. A. Wright profile image

      E. A. Wright 8 years ago from New York City

      Ugh. Ticks. I second the advice to tuck your shirt in, as I once found one of critters snuggled in my belly button after a hike. It's just disconcerting to see something attached to your skin like that -- especially when the tick's legs wriggle.


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