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Whenever you spend time outdoors, it’s possible there are ticks nearby. Take simple steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from tick bites and the illnesses they can spread.


The best way to prevent tick bite illnesses is to prevent tick bites. Before heading outdoors, protect yourself from tick bites:

1. Avoid areas where ticks live.

You can encounter ticks throughout Vermont whenever temperatures are above freezing. Ticks thrive in wooded and brushy areas with high grass, shrubs, and leaf litter. Places like the edges of backyards, farms, trails, and sports fields will likely house many ticks. They’re also found in host animals, like deer, mice, and chipmunks—so you'll likely find ticks wherever you find these animals. Ticks stay low to the ground. They can’t fly or jump– they climb onto animals or humans when they brush by.

Walk in the center of trails (avoiding tall grass and other plants on the edges) to lower your chances of coming into contact with ticks. Mow tall grass or brush in your yard and pick up leaf litter to reduce the number of ticks near your home.

2. Wear protective clothing and gear

Choose protective clothing such as pants, long-sleeved shirts, long socks, and high boots. Light-colored clothing is easier to spot ticks on. 

Consider treating clothing, shoes, and camping gear (NOT skin) ahead of time with 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin kills ticks on contact and gives protection through several washes. Permethrin-treated clothing and gear are also available for purchase. 

3. Use insect repellent

Choose an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent as these are guaranteed to be safe and effective at preventing bites. EPA has a search tool that can help you find which product will best suit your needs based on how long you will need protection, if you need protection from ticks, mosquitoes, or both, and which active ingredient you prefer.

Insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), and 2-undecanone are most effective against ticks. Always follow product instructions. Avoid repellents containing OLE and PMD if your child is under three years old. 

4. Protect and check your pets.

Pets like dogs and outdoor cats can bring ticks into your home. People with pets are more likely to be bitten by a tick and develop a tick-bite illness.

If you have a pet, talk with your veterinarian about tick-prevention products, such as chews, ointments, and collars. Be sure to check your pets thoroughly for ticks after being outside.

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Check for ticks after spending time in tick habitats.

  • Check your clothing, gear, and pets for ticks before going inside.
  • Check your body and your child’s body.  Scan under arms, in and around ears, around the waist, and between the legs. Using a handheld or full-length mirror can help.
  • Take a shower to help wash off unattached ticks and to find ticks more easily.
  • Put clothes in the dryer on high heat for ten minutes to kill any unattached ticks carried inside. If clothes are damp, more time may be needed. Clothes that require washing should be washed with hot water, as cold and medium temperatures will not kill ticks.


Remove any attached ticks right away.

It takes a few simple steps to remove attached ticks on your own. The longer a tick is attached, the greater the risk it can spread bacteria if it is infected, so remove it as soon as you can.

Finding an attached tick might be scary. There is no need to visit the emergency room or health care provider for the removal of a tick. Ask a family member or friend to help if you have trouble removing the tick.

  1. Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool and grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull the tick upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. Clean your hands and the bite area with rubbing alcohol, soap, and water.
  4. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

Many people won’t notice that they’ve had a tick bite. Tick bites don’t hurt—and may or may not itch. If you don't find the tick and remove it first, it will fall off on its own once it is full. This usually happens after a few days, but it can sometimes take up to two weeks.

When are antibiotics recommended after a tick bite?

Generally, infectious disease experts do not recommend the routine use of antibiotics following a tick bite as a way to prevent Lyme disease. Health care providers might offer patients a single dose of antibiotics after a tick bite if:

  • The tick can be identified as a blacklegged tick;
  • It's been attached for 36 hours or more;
  • The antibiotic can be given within 72 hours of tick removal;
  • Your doctor determines that the antibiotics are safe for you, and;
  • Lyme disease is common in the area where the tick bite occurred. If you believe you picked up the tick anywhere in Vermont or neighboring states, this condition would be met.

This type of treatment, called post-exposure prophylaxis, is not recommended as a way to prevent other tick bite illnesses such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis or ehrlichiosis.

Should removed ticks be sent in for testing?

Some people are interested in testing ticks that they removed from themselves or loved ones tested for various tick bite illnesses. The Vermont Department of Health does not recommend tick testing under these circumstances for the following reasons:

  • You may not have been infected. Even if a tick is infected and tests positive, it may not have transmitted the infection to you.
  • Negative results can lead to false assurance. You may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected, not know it, and develop symptoms of tick bite illnesses.
  • It might delay treatment. Tick test results take several days and may not be available in time to make a prompt health care decision.
  • Tests performed on ticks are not held to the same standards as tests performed on humans. Results of tick testing should not be used for treatment decisions. Even with a negative result, people should still monitor themselves for the appearance of a rash, fever, and flu-like symptoms. If any occur, you should contact your health care provider.
  • Some private laboratories offer tick testing, but the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets do not collect ticks from the public and test them for tick bite illnesses.

Found a tick and wondering if you need to seek medical care?

Use this online tool to assist you when removing attached ticks and determining whether you need to seek care. The tool will recommend actions and resources based on your responses to questions about your tick bite.

Get Started


Watch for symptoms for 30 days after a tick bite and tell your provider if you get sick.

Symptoms of a tick bite illness may include fever, chills, rash, headache, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, or a rash. Most people with Lyme disease will have a rash, but other tick bite illnesses in Vermont do not cause a rash. The rash starts as redness near the tick bite area and can sometimes grow to look like a bull’s-eye.

Contact your health care provider if you develop any symptoms, and tell them about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and your outdoor activities.
Some tick bite illnesses can be treated with a short course of antibiotics. Most people who begin treatment early on fully recover.

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