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Avoid the blood-sucking bite: Keeping ticks away

Preventing tick bites
Preventing tick bites

Each year, ticks bite millions of Americans. And these pesky critters can make you very sick.

They’re small, blood-sucking bugs, and you don’t want them to bite you! A tick can spread serious diseases, such as Lyme disease, rocky mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and others.

“It’s very important for people to protect themselves against getting tick bites,” said Dr. Kathleen Townes, Internal Medicine/Pediatrics with North Shore Physicians Group.

To do that, avoid tick-infested areas like grassy or wooded spots; walk in the center of trails; wear long pants, sleeves, and a hat.

It’s a good idea to tuck your pants into your socks. Also, use a chemical insect repellant that contains deet, permethrin, or picaridin.

MORE: Consumer Reports tests best repellants for ticks

Make sure pets are treated with tick prevention medicine and don’t let them sleep in your bed.

And check yourself daily for ticks. The sooner you remove one, the better!

“Lyme disease is not transmitted unless the tick is attached for at least 36 hours,” Townes said.

To remove a tick, use pointed tweezers to grab it as close as possible to your skin. Without squeezing, pull the tick straight out, keeping it intact. If the head remains, leave it. Seal the tick in a plastic zip-lock bag. Rub the bite with alcohol and wash your hands. But remember …

“If you can avoid getting exposed to a tick in the first place, that is the best thing you can do for yourself,” Townes said.

There are many kinds of ticks that are found in different regions of the country. Some common ones include the deer tick, the dog tick, and the lone star tick.