How to protect yourself from ticks, according to a Virginia Tech expert

Ticks are around all year long, but spring and summer are known as tick season.

BLACKSBURG, Va. – As you and your family spend more time outside, ticks are a little pest to look out for. They can be small, but they can make you very sick.

Common places where you can find ticks are in the tall grass and in brushy forested areas, but they can also be in your own yard. This is why it is important to check yourself, your family, and your pets after every time you come back inside.

Brandon Jutras, an Assistant Professor in the Biochemistry department at Virginia Tech, says the easiest way to protect yourself from ticks starts with your clothing. He says to wear clothes that will cover the most skin. It might not be fashionable, but he recommends wearing high socks and tucking your pants into your socks.

If you plan on going on a hike, it is best to stay on the trail where the grass is well-groomed. Jutras says that ticks are not like mosquitoes. They are not trying to actively find you and bite you, they go on quests.

“What that means is they basically climb up long blades of grass and foliage and put their little appendages out when they sense anything that is breathing. They sense carbon dioxide much like other arthropods do and so when they sense something breathing, they basically climb up those blades of grass and put out their little feelers,” says Jutras.

There are plenty of repellants out there that work well to repel ticks, but you want to make sure you use one that has Permethrin in it.

If you do find a tick on you, don’t panic and don’t try anything crazy to remove it if it is attached.

Jutras says ticks can be quite difficult to remove, so you want to have a fine pair of tweezers. You can also buy dedicated tick removers online.

When working to remove a tick, you want to get as close to the skin as possible and just pull.

“You never want to try and basically pull from the body. You want to get as close to that feeding structure or their head as possible. Because if you were to say squeeze their body while it was feeding, you can actually accelerate the injection of things into you,” said Jutras.

It is important to know that the injection of bacteria and Lyme Disease can take up to 18 hours. That is why it is important to properly remove ticks.

It is also helpful, if you are able to, to save the tick and bring it with you to your doctor. Not all ticks carry Lyme Disease. If you save the tick, there are tests that can be done to see if it is a carrier.


About the Author:

Brittany Wier joined the 10 News team as the morning reporter in August 2021.