Fight the Bite: Prevent tick bites
When enjoying time outdoors, it is important to be aware of ticks and take steps to protect yourself. You can take several steps to "fight the bite" and prevent illnesses spread by ticks, including using personal protection, removing ticks as soon as possible, and getting rid of ticks in your yard. Ticks are typically most active in Wisconsin from May to November, but it is still important to use caution year-round.
If you spend time outdoors often, download the Tick App, a free smartphone app from our partners at the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease that allows people living in areas with a high risk of Lyme disease to report ticks, learn tick bite prevention tips, and help researchers understand ticks and the illnesses they spread.
These tips for preventing Lyme disease can be used to prevent all illnesses spread by ticks!
There are many steps you can take to protect yourself from tick bites.
Use repellent on skin and clothing
- Use insect repellents with 20%–30% DEET, 10–20% Picaridin, 15–20% IR3535, or 30–40% oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and clothes to prevent tick bites.
- Be careful when using products on children.
- Parents should apply repellents to their children, and be sure to avoid hands, eyes, and mouth.
- Do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under three years of age.
- Apply permethrin (a pesticide that kills ticks) to clothes, shoes, and gear to prevent tick bites.
- Permethrin kills ticks when they crawl on your clothes.
- It lasts through several washes after it is applied.
- Do not apply directly to skin.
- Carefully apply repellents according to the label instructions.
- Some products have to be applied more often than others. Find which repellent is right for you at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.
- For more information on insect repellents, visit the Department of Health Services (DHS) Tick and Insect Repellents webpage and read Insect Repellent Essentials: A Brief Guide (PDF) from the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-borne Diseases.
Wear appropriate outdoor clothing
- Wear long sleeves, long pants, and long socks to keep ticks on the outside of clothing.
- Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to spot.
- Tuck shirts into pants and pants into shoes or socks to keep ticks on the outside of clothing.
- Tape pant legs where pants and socks meet so that ticks cannot crawl under clothes, if outdoors for a long time.
Avoid direct contact with ticks
- Walk in the center of trails and do not brush up against plants on the edge of trails.
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter.
Check for ticks after being outdoors
- Perform daily full-body tick checks after being outdoors in areas where ticks may be present, even in your own yard.
- Check all parts of the body carefully, especially the armpits, behind the knees, scalp, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, and groin.
- Parents should check their children for ticks.
- Make sure your clothing, gear, and pets don't have ticks before going inside. Use a veterinarian prescribed tick prevention treatment on pets.
- Take a bath or shower within two hours after coming inside to find and wash off any ticks on your body.
- Kill any ticks that may still be on clothing: Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes. If clothes are damp, tumble dry on high heat for 60 minutes.
Tick removal: dos and don'ts
Don't panic if you find a tick embedded on your body. Simply remove it as soon as possible following these recommendations:
- Grasp tick with a narrow-bladed tweezers as close as possible to the skin.
- If tweezers are not available, use fingers shielded with tissue paper or rubber gloves.
- Pull upward and out with a firm and steady tension.
- Don't use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products.
- Don't handle tick with bare hands.
- Don't squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick, which may contain infectious fluids. Do not twist, as this can cause the mouthparts to break off and stay in the skin.
After removing the tick, use rubbing alcohol to clean the bite site and wash hands. It is important that a tick be properly removed as soon as it is discovered. Visit your doctor if you have a rash or fever within 30 days of removing a tick or after possible tick exposure. It is important to tell them when and where you may have come into contact with the tick.
If I've been bitten by a tick, should I get it tested?
If you have been bitten by a tick, getting it tested for any diseases is not recommended. The only way to know if a tick bite made you sick is through an evaluation performed by a health care provider. Check out more information on tick testing.
Easy ways to lower the number of ticks in the environment where you live or work:
Create tick-safe zones
- Clear tall grass, brush, and leaf litter from the yard or trails.
- Use wood chips or gravel as a barrier between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a 3-foot wide barrier to prevent ticks from entering recreational areas.
- Mow lawns often and remove cut grass and leaves.
- Keep tables, swing sets, play equipment, etc., away from woods, shrubs, and tall grass. Place in a sunny location, if possible.
- Do not feed deer, which often carry ticks into the yard. Build barriers to lessen deer intrusion.
- Remove woodpiles, or stack wood neatly in dry areas away from houses to lower the number of rodents in the area. Rodents can bring ticks into the yard and can also spread disease to the ticks.
Apply pesticides outdoors
Apply pesticides that kill ticks in the springtime to reduce the number of ticks in your yard.
- Speak to or hire a professional pesticide company before using pesticides.
- The EPA and each state have different rules and regulations related to pesticide application on residential properties. It is important to identify these before applying pesticides.
- For more information, visit the EPA's Pesticide Safety site.
- Tickborne Diseases Risk in Wisconsin, P-01751 (PDF): Educational flyer describing the risk posed by illnesses spread by ticks in Wisconsin.
- Tick Safety Guide, P-01434 (PDF): Educational tri-fold card covering ticks in Wisconsin, proper tick removal, and tick bite prevention.
- Lyme Disease Risk in Wisconsin, P-01752 (PDF): Educational flyer describing the risk posed by Lyme disease in Wisconsin.
- Lyme Disease Fact Sheet, P-42070 (Multiple Languages): Educational fact sheet on Lyme disease for the general public that covers signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
- Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis Fact Sheet, P-42045 (Multiple Languages): Educational fact sheet on anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis for the general public that covers signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
- Babesiosis Fact Sheet, P-42028 (Multiple Languages): Educational fact sheet on babesiosis for the general public that covers signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
Resources can be ordered for free from DHS. Here's how:
- Download the Microsoft Word document F-80025A (this can be used to order multiple forms and publications).
Internet Explorer Users: When downloading a Word form, you may get a Windows Security popup box asking for a login ID and a password. The form will open if you choose "Cancel."
- Complete the form by tabbing through the input fields, not by using the return or enter key.
- Email the completed form to the DHS forms managers.
- If you have questions about ordering forms or publications, please email the DHS forms manager or call 608-266-8502.
- Preventing Ticks on Your Pets: Information on ticks and your pets.
- It's Open Season on Ticks: A fact sheet on tick bite prevention for hunters.
- CDC Trail Sign: Plastic trail sign used to remind hikers that there are ticks in the area and how to prevent bites. Available for order from CDC.
- Lyme Disease Prevention and Tick Removal Bookmark: A bookmark with information on how to properly remove a tick. Available for order from CDC.
- Don't Let a Tick Make You Sick Comic: An educational comic for kids about preventing illnesses spread by ticks.
- Don't Let a Tick Make You Sick Crossword: An educational crossword for kids about preventing illnesses spread by ticks.
- Tick Check 1-2 (Lyme Disease Prevention Rap): A video from Fairfax County, Virginia Health Department with tips on how to protect yourself from tick bites.
- Tick-Borne Disease Prevention: Information on ways to prevent tick bites from our partners at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical Entomology Laboratory.
- Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease, Ticks: Information on ticks found in the Midwest and prevention resources.
- Managing Ticks and Preventing Tick Bites: Information on ticks and tick control tips from the National Pesticide Information Center.
Questions about illnesses spread by ticks? Contact us!
Phone: 608-267-9003 | Fax: 608-261-4976