So often we forget that ticks don’t have a designated spot and don’t just reside in forests or parks. Whenever we go outside, we’re at risk of being on their turf. In fact, ticks can—and do—encroach on our very own backyards. They also don’t launch onto their targets but rather bide their time in thick brush or tall grass. They wait to latch onto unsuspecting passersby when they sense heat. Feeling the creepy crawlies yet? We don’t blame you! Here’s how to check for these notorious little bloodsuckers after a wilderness expedition or an enjoyable backyard jaunt.
Checking for Ticks
You might already know, but ticks are no joke. These bitesize buggers have the potential to carry a host of diseases detrimental to your health. These can include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, babesiosis, and more. It’s essential to look yourself over if you’ve been outside in a tick-heavy area or were in some way exposed to ticks. Not doing so can increase your chances of contracting disease, especially if a fully engorged tick is left to feed and transmit.
So, how do you effectively check for ticks after being outdoors or performing an outdoor activity that could put you at risk? Follow these steps:
Examine Yourself Immediately After
You’ll want to do a quick scan before getting back in your car or entering your home. Perform a full-body sweep for ticks, including on your ankles, wrists, and legs. Ticks typically latch onto areas that are likely to come into contact with their preferred hiding places. This also includes your shoes. If you’re with someone else, have them look you over for ticks—and vice versa.
Check Again and More Thoroughly
After a few hours have passed, examine yourself again. Strip down to your birthday suit and look over your entire body in a full-length mirror. This will allow you to fully see everything, even in hard-to-notice areas like your back and calves.
You’ll also want to check any hairy spots. And that means everywhere you have a lot of hair: your head, your legs, your armpits, your groin, etc. Be sure to also look and feel behind your ears. If you find any ticks on your body, remove them safely with tweezers or get someone else to if you can’t reach them.
Search Your Clothes and Personal Belongings
Once you’re stripped down and are done examining yourself, transfer your clothes to an open bathtub or shower and shake them over it. This could reveal any hiding ticks. Take special note of your shoes, socks, and pant legs as these are likely targets.
After that, put your clothes through a washer and dryer cycle. The heat will help kill off any unseen ticks still lurking in the folds of clothes. Do the same with any personal belongings that are able to withstand the washer and dryer, like towels and blankets. For other personal belongings, such as camping gear or bags, give them a good once-over for ticks.
Finally, go and wash yourself off. As you wash, you can inspect yourself even more closely—and be sure that you’re completely tick-free. If anything, you’ll feel way better after being outside in the heat of the day!
Remember to keep a lookout over the next few days for ticks or bite marks on your body. These bites can quickly turn into rashes, so keep an eye out for that as well. If you start feeling sick, and/or develop a rash or fever, contact your doctor or other healthcare professional as soon as possible.