The late spring and early summer are great times to get outside and hike, play sports or barbecue with family and friends. Just remember, some uninvited guests may show up at your party – ticks like this time of year, too.

Ticks are parasites that can transfer diseases, like Lyme disease, when they bite people. In the Northeast, Lyme disease is a major concern. It can cause fever, headache, fatigue and rashes. Serious complications include arthritis, heart palpitations and loss of facial muscle tone.

N. Stuart Harris, MD, chief of the MGH Division of Wilderness Medicine and director of its wilderness fellowships, shares tips on how to have fun while also being mindful of ticks.


Unlike mosquitoes, ticks are active all day and night. But a few simple tricks can reduce the risk of getting a tick-borne disease.

--Create a barrier. Wear long-sleeves and pants and tuck your pants, into your socks. Ticks tend to latch on around the foot and ankle and slowly crawl up your body.

--Use DEET-containing insect repellents. The range of 12 to 25 percent should be sufficient. Read the label. DEET is OK to use on children, but not on infants.

--Clean up your yard. Remove leaves that are decomposing and keep the grass cut short.

--Perform tick checks when you, your children and pets come inside. Check the entire body. Look in the hair at the top of the head, in and around the ears, the armpits, in the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs and at the waist. Have loved ones examine difficult to see areas. Take a shower. Check clothes and backpacks and tumble them in the dryer.

--Talk to your veterinarian about protecting pets.

Tick Removal

Don’t panic. Removing a tick within 24 hours reduces the chance of contracting a disease.

--If you are outside and the tick has not bitten you yet, simply flick it off.

--If the tick has attached itself to you, grab a pair of clean tweezers. Grasp the tick close to your skin surface and pull upward—slow and steady. Clean the area and your hands with soap and water and/or rubbing alcohol. Then, either flush the tick down the toilet or save it in a sealed bag for your doctor.

--Call your doctor, especially if you think the tick may have been on you longer than 24 hours. Antibiotics are effective in preventing Lyme disease, but must be taken soon after the bite.

--If you are on Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, call your doctor. These places are epicenters of Lyme disease. Your doctor may be more likely to recommend that you take an antibiotic.

--Watch for signs of infection, including fatigue, rash and fever. 

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