Scientists Predict a Terrible Tick Season—Here’s What You Should Do

Know how to avoid, prevent, and get rid of ticks (and their bites) during peak activity.

By Stacey L Nash | Updated Jun 16, 2021 12:49 PM

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bad tick season

Tick season starts in the spring and ends in the early fall. At least, that’s when these 8-legged arachnids are most active. And this summer’s warm, wet weather has experts predicting above average tick activity for much of the United States. People and pets can get a long list of diseases from a tick bite, including Lyme disease, which can bring a lifetime’s worth of problems if not caught early. It pays to know where these disease-carrying critters hide and thrive and how to take appropriate preventive measures so you can avoid a bite.

Recognize (and Avoid) Tick Habitats

Ticks like wooded, brushy areas with tall grass. They also like a nice warm host, like deer, dogs, and other animals. Once they’re done with one host, they’ll move on to another. Activities like walking, camping, gardening, and hunting can easily put you in close proximity to ticks. Stay at the center of trails. Be careful of leaf litter and grass clippings, and watch out for tall grass and shrubs, even in your own backyard.

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Wear Light-Colored Clothing and Treat It Right

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends treating clothing and gear with tick sprays that contain at least 0.5 percent permethrin. Permethrin works on camping gear like backpacks and tents as well as clothing, boots, and shoes. It’s powerful enough to last for several washings. Permethrin-treated clothing and gear are also available at outdoor stores.

Tuck In Pant Legs and Tape Them Up

Ticks are masters at sneaking up pant legs, so tuck your pant legs into your socks. It’s not exactly a fashion-friendly look, but it keeps out ticks. In tick-heavy areas, you also might want to wrap duct tape over the overlapping seam of the sock. Think of it as extra protection from an unwanted hitchhiker.

tick season to be bad this year

Bring On the Bug Spray

Apply bug spray to the skin to further repel ticks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a search tool to help you find a suitable tick repellent. These repellents typically have ingredients like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, para-Menthane-diol (PMD), or oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). However, do not apply products with OLE and PMD to children less than 3 years old. Tick repellents contain ingredients that get absorbed into the skin, so make sure to follow the instructions carefully.

Check Clothes for Ticks

Ticks can hide in the folds of clothing. Check your socks, shoes, and hats. If clothes need washing, make sure to use hot water because cold and medium temperatures won’t kill ticks. Tumble the clothes on high heat until dry. If the clothes don’t need washing, just put them in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes or longer if the clothes are damp.

bad tick season

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Examine Your Gear

Your body and clothes may be tick-free, but your backpack could be a different story. Examine coats, tents, sleeping bags, pillows, and backpacks for ticks looking to catch a ride on a new host. Toss any item that can safely withstand high heat in the dryer for 10 minutes to kill the ticks.

ticks are bad this year

Check the Body for Ticks

If you’ve been in a tick area, shower soon after exposure. After showering or bathing, check everyone for ticks, including pets. Ticks like dark, moist places on the body, particularly:

  • Elbow and knee crevices
  • Behind the ears
  • In the hair
  • In the armpits
  • In the groin