How To Avoid Ticks While Hiking: Best Tips For People & Dogs

by Julie | Last Updated:   October 8th, 2022
How To Avoid Ticks While Hiking: Best Tips For People & Dogs

Most people love spending time in the outdoors to some extent. Especially when the weather is nice and warm and sunny. Spring and summer are some of the busiest times in the outdoors too. It’s the perfect time for vacation trips, camping, hiking, you name it!

With the warmer weather, comes all the bugs too, some of which we may not find so welcoming. One that causes particular concern at this time of year is ticks. Everyone wants to avoid getting tick bites, because not only are they unpleasant, but they can cause serious health issues.

Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever come from a tick bite that could happen to anyone. The scary thing is that you don’t have to be hiking trails way out in the backcountry to get a tick on you. It can happen right in your own backyard.

We are here to go over the best ways on how to avoid ticks while hiking. Knowing the kind of areas and habitats they’re most common in, the risks of tick bites, and even what to use to repel ticks are all that you need to know when you love being outdoors!

Why Do People Worry About Ticks?

No one wants to find a tick on them, and with good reason. Ticks attach themselves to whatever animal or human will pass them by and burrow into the skin where they feed off of blood. The thing is that tick bites can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and other diseases depending on the kind of tick it is.

These diseases can be debilitating and sometimes stay with people for the rest of their lives. If left untreated, they can even be severe enough to cause death.

What Is Lyme Disease and How Is It Contracted?

Blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks, will have a bite that will carry Lyme disease. These are some of the most common ticks that you will encounter as well. If infected ticks bite you, they’ll need to be attached for 36 to 48 hours for them to transmit the disease.

These ticks are found throughout the northeast and upper midwest. Those found on the opposite coast are the western blacklegged tick species and will carry the same tick-borne illness as their eastern counterparts.

They will most commonly attach to areas that are hard to see, like the armpit, groin, and scalp. But you can find them crawling or attaching to any part of your body where there is exposed skin.

Lyme disease has a large range of effects from person to person, from rashes and arthritis to fever and facial paralysis. The early signs of Lyme disease include:

  • Skin rash or ring around the initial bite area
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue

These symptoms can worsen days or months after you were bitten if you did not get proper treatment right away. They will often present themselves with flu-like symptoms if a bite has occurred. There are some people who still experience bouts of flare-ups of these symptoms even if they’ve been properly treated, making it a life-long disease.

When Should I Go to the Doctor After A Tick Bite?

If you begin to notice any of the early signs and symptoms within that 36 to 48-hour period, that is when you should see your doctor. If you have removed a tick that had bitten you and notice that there is an increase in redness, rash, or a red ring that seems to be growing around the area of the bite, then go to the doctor to be tested and treated for Lyme disease.

Tell Me The Best Way To Check For Ticks

The best way to check for ticks while hiking is generally to wait until after your hike. However, while you are on the trails, you can check your extremities throughout to spot these small creatures crawling on you. It’ll be easier to spot them if you are wearing light-colored clothing.

When you get back home is time to do a thorough check. You’ll want to strip out of your clothes and be in a room with ample lighting and a mirror. They are commonly found on your scalp, the base of the neck, under the armpit, and around the groin area. Check thoroughly because juvenile ticks, or nymphs, are extremely small and are the cause of most Lyme disease cases.

Adult ticks can still carry Lyme disease, but they’re larger and easier to see and find.

Having a parent or significant other also check you for ticks is very helpful. Having a second pair of eyes can help spot something you may have missed.

Removal Of Ticks: How To Do It Correctly

How To Avoid Ticks While Hiking

If you find a tick on you, don’t panic. If its head is burrowed into your skin, you’ll have to be sure to remove it carefully so as not to have a part of the tick break off. This is something you can do with tweezers, your fingers, or a special tick removal tool that you can find online or in stores.

To remove a tick:

  • Use a tweezer or a tick removal tool
  • Pinch/grip the tick as close to the skin as you can get
  • Slowly but firmly pull upward to remove the tick from your skin
  • If its mouth parts break off and you’re unable to remove them, then leave it alone and let your skin heal
  • Keep an eye on the bite area for signs and symptoms of contracted tick-borne diseases

Do not use nail polish, light a match, or use petroleum jelly to remove ticks!

Tell Me The Best Way To Avoid Ticks

It is difficult to avoid ticks entirely while hiking trails or even walking in your backyard. However, there are still measures you can take to protect yourself and prevent tick bites. These tips will help:

  1. When going to a hiking trail read the signs warning and educate you about ticks, they will let you know how common they are in the area.
  2. Wear long pants, and light-colored clothing, tuck pant legs into your boots or socks and wear long sleeves.
  3. Avoid tall grasses and thick brush as they are commonly considered ideal tick country.
  4. Use insect repellents and/or tick repellents.

Along with wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, you can also find tick-repellent clothing. They are often made to repel ticks and other bugs like mosquitoes as well, so they can’t get through or stick onto the fabric.

You can also use fabric insect repellent treatments such as lemon eucalyptus or a spray-on insect repellant to prevent ticks while hiking. Proper clothing goes a long way when dealing with these unwanted hitchhikers.

Tell Me About The Best Tick Repellents

The best tick repellents are EPA (Environmental Protective Agency) approved so you won’t harm yourself or other parts of the environment. These repellents will work on different species of ticks and other bugs and often include ingredients like lemon eucalyptus, essential and natural oils, DEET, and Picaridin.

Species Of Common Ticks

There are quite a variety of ticks that can be found in different regions. The deer tick, or eastern blacklegged tick, is widely distributed in the east and northeast. The Rocky Mountain states are home to the brown dog tick, American dog tick, and Rocky Mountain wood tick, which are known to carry the disease Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can be fatal if not caught early.

Other ticks, like the lone star tick, are found in the southeast and also carry tick-borne illnesses that can affect humans and dogs.

How Can I Keep Ticks Off My Dog?

This is no easy feat as dogs pick up ticks far more often than people do because they run through the habitat of ticks all the time. Tall grass, especially, is not only enjoyable for a dog but is a tick haven. Just like what you do with yourself, you’ll have to do a tick check on your dog often, even if they’ve only been in your backyard for the day.

You can remove them the same way as we instructed previously for a person. The use of tweezers and pinching the tick as close to the skin as possible and then slowly but firmly pulling upward to remove it.

There are approved products out there for dogs as well, like tick repellent shampoos, collars, and more. Some of the previously cited repellents are for people as much as for dogs.

The best way to keep ticks off your dog is to just consistently check them every day through the spring and summer to ensure they don’t get ticks and to monitor tick bites for contracted diseases.

Key Insights & Takeaways

How To Avoid Ticks While Hiking

Ticks are gross, they’re creepy, and they can transmit all of these different diseases to your and your pets. So, needless to say, we all want to avoid ticks! Though, that is easier said than done because so many of our outdoor activities bring us into tick country.

Be prepared with the proper hiking clothes that cover as much of your skin’s surface as possible. That means wearing long pants and long sleeves! Always check yourself for ticks after hiking trails or doing other outdoor activities. If you find ticks on you, remove them as soon as you find them. Always double-check areas like the groin, armpits, and even the belly button for ticks.

However, it is practically inevitable that you will get a tick bite at some point. When that happens, avoid using rubbing alcohol, nail polish, or petroleum jelly. These will not help you. Use a pair of tweezers to pull the tick out.

Then, monitor the area of the bite for a rash and take note if you experience flu-like symptoms. This can occur anywhere from 48 hours to a few weeks after you are bitten. If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, go to the doctor and get tested and treated right away!

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I hike to avoid ticks?

If you truly don’t want to have any run-ins with ticks while hiking then you should go early in the spring or in late fall. When the temperatures are still pretty chilly and may even be at freezing in the morning or evening. Once the temperature drops like that the ticks will become inactive. This is why you never see them around this time and through the winter.

What keeps ticks away naturally?

Cedar oil is an all-natural option you can use as an insect repellent on yourself and your pet. It can be sprayed on clothing or skin and will not only repel ticks and other insects but kills them as well.

What color are ticks?

Different species of ticks have different colorations but most are black, black and red, brown, reddish-brown, or dark orange. When unfed they appear as a flat, teardrop shape no bigger than an apple seed.

What to wear to avoid ticks?

You don’t want any exposed skin visible if you are worried about ticks and tick bites. Wear long pants, and long-sleeved shirts, and tuck your pant legs into your boots and socks to prevent ticks from reaching your skin. There are tick repellent clothes that you can purchase in-store or online that are specially made to repel insects too.

How do you get ticks?

You get ticks while hiking, walking, camping, or doing any outdoor activity. They prefer tall grass and thick bush, which makes up most of the northeast, and that just so happens to be where people love to enjoy the great outdoors too. Ticks wait on these tall grasses or branches for an animal to pass by where it can cling to and climb to find an ideal spot where they can reach the skin.

On animals, it is most common to find ticks around the neck and ears. On people, you’ll find them around the scalp, armpits, groin, belly button, anywhere they can easily reach exposed skin.

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I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.