How To Check for Ticks

Written by Volia Nikaci
Updated: December 7, 2022
© Evgeniyqw/Shutterstock.com
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Do you plan to go on a hiking trip or spend some time outside this summer? Then it’s going to be very important for you to know how to do a tick check. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of tick-borne diseases is on the rise. When tick populations are high in the spring, summer, and early fall, it is particularly important to take precautions. This means that if you are going to be outside, you need to take precautions to ensure the safety of yourself, your family, and your pets before, during, and after your visit. Your risk of contracting a tick-borne disease is significantly reduced if you remove ticks promptly after discovering them. 

However, do you know how to detect ticks on yourself? Those of you who don’t, or those who want to refresh your knowledge on how to check for them properly, should read on. Throughout this article, we’ll cover how to check for ticks and how to remove them safely.

How To Do a Tick Check

Tick Header - Tick Burrowed In
Ticks can attach themselves to your skin. This is why it is important to do a check after being in tick-infested areas.

©Evgeniyqw/Shutterstock.com

Due to their small size, ticks are easily overlooked, especially as larvae. Among their habitats, ticks live in grassy patches, leaf piles, and low-growing shrubs. As you come into contact with ticks, they may crawl onto your clothes or body and bite or feed on the exposed skin. In the United States, there are at least 13 diseases that are transmitted to humans via tick bites. That’s why it is important to know how to check for them. 

Whenever you are in an area where ticks may be present, follow these steps: 

1. Take a quick look at your clothes and body 

This might seem like an incredibly obvious step to many of you. However, it’s not uncommon for many of us to forget to get a glance over. Especially if we’re excited to get back on our trail or to finally head back home after a long and exhausting hike. Once you’ve left an area prone to ticks, do a quick scan of yourself, your children, and your pets. While self-examining, use a buddy to monitor areas you are not able to see. Take a look at your clothes, feel your hair, and feel the back of your neck. Be sure to take your shoes off, because they often have lots of spaces that a tick can hide in. 

2. Do a more thorough check

After being in an area likely to have ticks, you should stop and take a closer look within 1-2 hours. During this step, it is best to remove all your clothing so that you can examine your body and clothes more closely. If you take a shower, you can also use a full-length mirror or a hand-held mirror to check your entire body for ticks as you wash. Remember that ticks like to hide in warm places or in skin folds. During tick checking, pay close attention to places like your underarms or behind your ears. They could even be hiding in your belly button, behind your knees, and sometimes even in between your legs and around your waist Immediately remove a tick attached to your body if you find one.

3. Change and check your clothes

While you are taking a good look in the mirror for ticks, they could be making themselves comfortable in your clothing. Ensure that none of these clothes are put back on after you have removed them. Instead, what you’re going to want to do is toss them in a dryer and put them on a high heat setting. The reason for this is that a dryer on a high heat setting will kill any ticks that have made a home out of your clothes. However, do not throw them in the washer first, as they are able to survive the water. If you happen to find any ticks on your clothes, be sure to remove them. Use duct tape, cellophane tape, or other types of tape to remove ticks from clothing. Ticks, specifically very small larvae, can also be effectively removed from clothing using an adhesive lint roller.

How To Remove a Tick Properly

The Groundhog Tick
It is important to be patient when removing a tick in order to avoid breaking off the mouth part from the body.

©iStock.com/jonnysek

After learning how to properly check your body for ticks, it’s time to discuss how to remove one if you find it. Ticks should be removed as soon as possible if they are found attached to your skin. Although there are a variety of tools for removing ticks available, there is no substitute for fine-tipped tweezers.

It is important to follow the steps below in order to remove a tick properly:

1. Grasp the tick’s mouthparts against the skin using pointed tweezers.

2. Maintain steady, even pressure as you pull upward. It is very important to be patient during this step. This is because the mouth parts of the tick can break off if you twist or jerk the tick. In the event that this occurs, don’t panic. Tweezers can be used to remove the mouth parts if this occurs. Leave the mouth alone if you cannot remove it easily with tweezers. Since the tick’s infective body is no longer attached to its mouthparts, it cannot transmit disease anymore. If necessary, seek medical attention.

3. Rubbing alcohol or soap and water should be used to clean the bite spot and your hands after removing the tick. 

4. Don’t squash the tick after you’ve removed it. Alternatively, you can put the tick in rubbing alcohol, flush it down the toilet, or wrap it tightly in tape to get rid of it. Alternatively, you can place it in a sealed container or bag and dispose of it that way. 

What Illnesses Do Ticks Spread?

The Gulf Coast Tick
Ticks spread a variety of diseases including Lyme disease.

©iStock.com/cturtletrax

Disease is spread by ticks when they feed off the blood of their hosts and pass bacteria, viruses, and parasites along. In most cases, these illnesses are characterized by symptoms similar to the flu, including chills, fever, headaches, and muscle aches. There are, however, a few diseases spread by ticks that should be known.

Some of the most common illnesses spread by ticks include:

Lyme Disease 

Both humans and animals can be affected by Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. In the United States, this disease is the most commonly reported tickborne disease. As of 2013, it was discovered that a closely related bacteria, Borrelia mayonii, can cause a similar illness to Lyme disease as well. There may be early signs and symptoms of this disease, such as a bull’s-eye rash, flu-like symptoms, or both. In the case that you do not treat Lyme disease, it can result in severe problems, such as problems with the brain and the nervous system, heart issues, and joint pains. 

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever 

This disease can be spread by a bite from an American dog tick. Nevertheless, it can also be acquired from Rocky Mountain wood ticks and brown dog ticks. The majority of cases occur in the Southeast, despite the name. A bad headache and high fever are usually the first symptoms. As a result of this reaction, most people develop a rash that starts on their ankles and wrists and spreads outward from there. Antibiotics are prescribed by doctors as a treatment for this disease.

Tularemia 

In the United States, tick bites can cause tularemia, a potentially fatal illness. Dog ticks, wood ticks, or lone star ticks can transmit Francisella tularensis, a bacterium that causes tularemia. Symptoms include a high fever and an open, painful sore after being bitten. Despite its life-threatening nature, antibiotics can be used to treat it.

Babesiosis

Babesiosis occurs when parasites are introduced into your red blood cells by black-legged ticks. Those with weak immune systems, those over the age of 65, and those who have had their spleen removed are at risk of having bad reactions to this disease due to their weakened immune systems.


The Featured Image

Tick Header - Tick Burrowed In
Deer ticks can survive in the winter.
© Evgeniyqw/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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