Heading into the wilderness come summertime is always a good idea; the crisp fresh air and abundance of Canadian national parks, hiking trails and campgrounds from coast to coast make it easy to get out and connect to nature. That said, anyone who visits cottage country regularly knows the importance of tick prevention.
Although most tick bites are harmless, Canada has a lot of deer ticks and wood ticks — which can carry Lyme disease and other harmful diseases — so taking extra care to protect against a potential bite is vital.
According to Paul Johnson, founder of the Tick and Mosquito Project, if you’re planning on spending time in a heavily wooded or grassy area, it’s key to exercise vigilance and prepare properly in order to avoid ticks as much as possible.
“Everyone knows to use repellents when they are in the forest or long grass, but you should also be vigilant on trails where you might not expect to find them,” Johnson says. “Ticks often wait above you on trees or branches and drop down on you as you walk by, so it is not all about the ground cover.”
Whether you’re heading out to a remote country home, planning a hike through the woods, or just want to ensure your bases are covered in terms of tick prevention and removal during your day to day, here’s everything you’ll need to prevent and protect against ticks throughout the summer.
Protect against ticks
There are a handful of smart practices and products to have on hand whenever you might come close to a grassy or wooded area. According to Johnson, you should check yourself often when you are in a tick-rich area. “You should make sure you examine your clothing, feel your skin inside your clothes and run your fingers through your hair,” he said.
Ben’s 30% DEET Mosquito, Tick and Insect Repellent ($21; amazon.ca)
“Repellents work, but you need to use the right ones,” says Johnson. “The best repellents against ticks are permethrin and deet. ” Consider using DEET on exposed skin for the best results (it also works to deter mosquitoes as well).
Natrapel 6-Hour Mosquito, Tick and Insect Repellent Pump Spray ($5.99; amazon.ca)
While the CDC says both DEET and picaridin are safe when used as directed, Wesley Wheeler, founder of Bug Lord, suggests going natural if you’re worried about having to use too much DEET. “There’s a natural oil product effective against mosquitoes and ticks called oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE),” Wheeler says, “however you have to re-apply it much more frequently.”
Sawyer Products SP656 Premium Permethrin Spray ($13.97; walmart.com)
If hiking, Wheeler suggests you aim to wear light-weight pants rather than shorts and treat them with permethrin spray for extra protection.
Women’s Insect Shield Leggings ($145; llbean.ca)
L.L.Bean just launched a line of clothing for men, women and kids that come pre-treated with Permethrin. It’s perfectly safe for daily wearing, and lasts for up to 70 washings. “The best part is, after 70 washings, you can send the clothing back to Insect Shield (the partner company who treats the L.L.Bean clothing) for another treatment,” Wheeler says.
Rynoskin Mosquito & Tick Protection Shirt ($54; amazon.ca)
For a chemical free option, Rynoskin creates tight-fitting base layers for camping and hiking and is marketed for protection against both ticks and mosquitoes.
Rynoskin Total HS018 Insect Repellent Hoodie ($27.95; amazon.ca)
Although an insect repellent hoodie like this one might seem like overkill, if you’re planning to go camping or hiking through heavily wooded areas, it could be worth the investment.
According to Wheeler, for ultimate control around your home, many of the pesticides that professionals (Orkin, Terminix, etc.) use are available for homeowners to purchase and spray themselves — all you need is a standard gallon garden sprayer and a few other little odds and ends.
Hi-Yield 38 Plus Turf, Termite & Insect Spray ($50.74; walmart.com)
According to Wheeler, because permethrin is a pyrethroid — a synthetic chemical developed to be similar to the natural insecticide pyrethrum which comes from the chrysanthemum plant — it’ll come as your best bet for preventing ticks around your property.
Simply spray the perimeter of your yard, especially if you live near a wooded area, and under any shaded shrubbery and stone walls. “A tip I like to give homeowners is any place you think chipmunks or mice would like to be, there’s a good chance ticks will be there as well,” Wheeler says. ” While you’re at it, I also recommend spraying the perimeter of your home including where your foundation meets the ground, windows, doors and soffiting.”
Thermacell Tick Control Tubes ($49.99; canadiantire.ca)
Tick tubes are cardboard rolls (think of a toilet paper roll) stuffed with cotton balls coated in Permethrin (same product as mentioned above). According to Wheeler, since mice are the leading distributor of lyme-infected ticks, the idea is that mice steal the cotton to build their nests, and in this process, they effectively treat themselves with insecticide — much like we do for our pets.
“I put tick tubes out and noticed the next day the cotton balls were already gone,” says Wheeler. “They can be a bit pricey to buy online, but you can DIY your own tick tubes really easily if needed.”
Black+Decker MTE912 12-Inch Electric 3-in-1 Trimmer/Edger and Mower ($138; amazon.ca)
“Finally, I definitely recommend keeping things tidy outdoors,” says Wheeler. “Mow the grass often and short, keep outdoor wood piles and clutter away from your home, and keep plants trimmed and a couple feet away from your home’s foundation.”
Crowded groundcover is exactly what mice use to move about and stay protected from predators, so ensuring you’re regularly mowing, trimming and organizing your yard will mean fewer pests overall.
In spite of all these efforts, sometimes a tick will still find its way onto your skin. If you find a tick on you that is not attached, pull it off and discard it. But, according to Johnson, if you find an attached tick, take extra care to pull it off with the head intact — a quick pull straight out is best.
“Make sure to note the type of tick (if you can identify them) and the location,” explains Johnson. “If a bullseye rash develops near your bite area, and it was a deer tick, consider heading to a doctor for early Lyme prevention treatment.”
Vaseline Healing Jelly ($5.19; amazon.ca)
“I grew up in Africa where getting tick bite fever was a real issue,” explains Wendy Gardner, founder and alchemist at Glow Skincare. “You should not try pulling them out when you see them as they leave their jaws/head embedded — instead smear some Vaseline over the tick, and then it releases its hold to be able to breathe. Then you can remove it. Otherwise you stand to get an infection from the head.”
Tweezerman Point Tweezer ($29; amazon.ca)
If the tick has bitten and latched on, you’re going to need tweezers to remove it with a pair of fine tweezers. “Using your tweezers, grab the tick as closely to your skin as possible,” says Mike Nicosia, founder of Conquerwild. ” Aim for its mouth parts, not its body. Once you’ve got a firm hold on it, pull backward with some force. Don’t twist or bend it.”
Isopropyl Alcohol 99.999% 1 Litre ($10.49; amazon.ca)
Once you’ve removed the tick, Nicosia says you may want to place it in a sealed bag with rubbing alcohol — which should kill it — before discarding it.
Tick Remover Tool Kit For Humans And Pets ($12.95; amazon.ca)
If you already have a first aid tucked into the backseat of your car or under the kitchen sink at the cottage, consider adding a simple tick removal tool kit to your arsenal. You never know when it’ll come in handy, and removing the tick ASAP is your best defense against potential disease.