From left, a female deer tick, a male deer tick, a female dog tick and a male dog tick.
While ticks are active all year long, warmer weather is often when numbers of ticks surge, so be on the lookout. Ticks are arachnids that feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) and dog ticks are found throughout Massachusetts and may spread different disease-causing germs when they bite you.
Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis are common tick-borne diseases in Massachusetts. You can take precautions to avoid tick-borne illness, including, checking yourself, children, and pets once a day for ticks when you come inside, using insect repellent, wearing light-colored clothing, and avoiding brushy areas. Find out more about ticks and tick-borne diseases here.
If you are bitten by a tick, you can submit the tick to the UMass Laboratory for Medical Zoology for testing. For information on tick testing, click here.
Ways to Reduce Exposure to Ticks:
- Avoid tick habitats: when possible, take care when spending time in wooded, brushy, or grassy areas. This is not to say that these environments are to be avoided entirely, however know that in these locations, your risk of encountering a tick increases. When in these areas, take the following steps to reduce tick-associated risks:
- Use insect repellent: products containing the active ingredient DEET (N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) may be applied directly to the skin; products containing a pyrethroid, such as permethrin, may be used on clothing. Follow all label instructions for any product used! A URI study found that individuals wearing permethrin-treated sneakers and socks were 73.6 times less likely to be bitten by a tick than those wearing untreated footwear. For more information, please visit: http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/permethrin
- Wear protective clothing: when possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when in tick habitats. Tuck pants into socks and wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to spot any ticks trying to hitch a ride.
- Shower after outdoor activities: use this as an opportunity to do a thorough tick-check all over the body and in your hair. Check everywhere. Ticks have no reservations about violating privacy.
- Put clothes in the dryer: particularly after spending time in tick-favored habitats, place all clothing within the dryer. Ticks are prone to desiccation (drying out) and this will kill any attached to the clothing. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) suggest tumble dry on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on clothing. If the clothing is damp, additional time may be required. If the clothing needs to be washed prior to drying, use hot water. If this is not possible, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes or until clothes are completely dry and warm following a wash. For more information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html
- For additional detail about these steps, please visit:http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/protect_yourself