The Ultimate Tick Check Routine: Protect Your Family and Furbabies
on Jul 14, 2023
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Tick, tick, tick… Hear that? It’s the sound of nature’s hitchhikers, waiting to latch onto unsuspecting explorers like you and your furry pals. It’s very important to learn how to check for ticks to keep yourself, your kids, and your pets healthy. Tick checks are imperative, especially as the weather warms up and we spend more time outside.
Make Tick Checks Routine
Ticks live in grassy or wooded areas all over the world and some can spread tick borne diseases such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. This year, reports are saying to expect high rates of ticks. Ewwww.
It’s really important to make diligent tick checks on yourself, your kids, and your pets a part of your normal routine.
Assemble a tick kit
Besides being gross and annoying, ticks carry all kinds of diseases, some more serious than others with potential lifelong complications or even death. The first step to making tick checks a normal part of your outdoor adventures is to assemble a tick kit.
Here’s what you need in it:
- Tweezers or a Tick Removal Tool called a Tick Key – this handy device will help you get the whole tick out if it has already latched on – head and everything. It’s really important when removing ticks that you don’t leave the head in your skin. (No, we aren’t smothering them in petroleum jelly!)
- Alcohol swabs – to clean the area after removing the tick (soap and water also work)
- Tick identification card – so you can see what type of tick
- sharpie – to mark the spot of your tick bites (this makes it easy to see if the affected area is spreading)
- baggies – to put the tick in for later testing
How to Check Yourself for Ticks
Checking yourself for ticks isn’t that hard – but you might want to ask a spouse or child to help you look through your hair. If no one else is around, use a handheld mirror to see all the nooks and crannies where they like to hide.
It’s easiest to check yourself for ticks right before you take a shower, preferably within an hour or two from coming inside.
First, remove your clothing, and then make sure to check in warm places ticks like to hide:
- back of your knees
- in skin folds
- around your ears and
- even in your belly button
- between your toes
- on your hairline
- in your armpits
If you have someone who can, ask them to check in place you cannot see such as the buttocks.
Make sure to check your private areas as well and women, check under your breasts.
Third, check your scalp. Ticks can hide anywhere on the head, but they particularly like behind the ears and the nape of the neck as these are generally warm and moist. Make sure to feel around or ask someone to assist.
How to Check for Ticks on Your Kids
In a similar fashion to checking for yourself, check your kids in all the same tick hiding places. Kids are more likely to wander into taller grass or bump into head height bushes. Check the scalp carefully.
After we are outside, I like to have my kids just change their clothes completely. This ensures we don’t have any lurkers in clothing seams. Pop the old clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes and then shake them out.
Small nymphs may be as small as a grain of pepper. Don’t forget to check in between toes as well.
As you are checking your kids, teach them about ticks and the best hiding places for them. This passes knowledge down so when they are older they will be able to do the checks independently.
How to Check Pets for Ticks
Our pets get ticks and are susceptible to tick-borne diseases just like humans. Doing a pet tick check can be a little bit complicated because of all their fur. Again, just make it a habit to go over your pet’s skin on a regular basis after frolicking around outside.
Where do Ticks Hide on Pets?
Not only do ticks cause illness in people, but they are also harmful to your pets. According to the CDC, tick diseases can take 7-21 days to appear in your pets.
On animals, ticks tend to congregate where blood is closest to the surface and easy to get too. (They don’t want to climb through all that fur either!) The most prevalent spots on pets is their ears, up by their eyes and around their necks. However, ticks can hide anywhere so check closely, especially these areas:
- around the groin
- in between the front legs
- around the tail
- in ears and in ear flaps
- under the collar
- eyebrow area
Since dogs and cats can’t tell you they found a tick, they may have one on them for several days feeding until it falls off. As they become more engorged, ticks on your dog will swell and change to a lighter brown color. Check your dog for ticks by combing through their hair with your fingers and checking for any small bumps on the dog’s skin.
You can also use a flea comb or a specially designed tick comb for dogs as well to help you find ticks.
Always check your pets for ticks before you let them back into your house as you don’t want them bringing you any eight-legged surprises.
Preventing tick bites is always the first line of defense. If you are going to be outdoors, use insect repellant and these natural ways to prevent tick bites. If you have joint pain, fevers, rashes or other flu like symptoms, follow this guide for what to do if you’re bitten by a tick.