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Tick safety tips

When you are planning to spend time outdoors you often remember to bring water to stay hydrated and sunscreen to protect your skin, but are you thinking about ticks?

Montana’s abundance of wooded, grassy areas and lush shrubbery provide ideal habitats for ticks. Montana’s ticks are capable of transmitting several tick-borne illnesses, with Rocky Mountain spotted fever being the most common.

Ticks do not fall from trees onto people or animals. Rather, they travel from the ground up and tend to latch on if you brush up against low-lying bushes, trees and grass.

Protecting Yourself Outdoors

  • Treat shoes, clothing and gear with Permethrin and apply Deet to exposed areas to help repel ticks. Also, consider treating your pets with specialized flea or tick sprays, wipes, or collars.
  • Avoid grassy, wooded and brushy areas, which have high encounter rates with ticks and plan accordingly.
  • When coming in from the outdoors, immediately throw your clothes and shoes into a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes before washing. The heat will kill the ticks.
  • Check your entire body for ticks. They will often end up around your hairline, behind your ears or in folds of skin. Don’t forget to check your kids and pets, too.

How to Remove an Attached Tick

There are several folk remedies for removing a tick. Touching it with a hot match is a common one. Others include covering it with petroleum jelly or nail polish (in theory to suffocate it), or freezing it off. These are all supposed to make the tick “back out” of the skin on its own. But they often have the opposite effect, forcing the tick to hold tight, burrow deeper, and possibly deposit more of its disease-carrying secretions into the wound, which increases the risk of infection.

Here's the best way to safely remove a tick:

  • Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close as possible to your skin and pull straight up. Do not twist the tick or rock it from side to side as this increases the chance of leaving the head beneath your skin.
  • Examine the freshly removed tick to ensure the head is intact. If the head breaks off in the skin, cleanse the skin with rubbing alcohol and use a sterile needle to uncover the head and lift it out. If you cannot remove the head, consult your health care provider for help.
  • If any loose ticks are found, dispose of them by flushing them down the toilet.

Symptoms of tick-borne disease can include an unusual rash and unexplained flu-like symptoms, including fever, severe headaches, body aches, and dizziness. Prompt treatment with antibiotics can prevent serious illness from developing. See your health care provider immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and are experiencing any of these symptoms.