Tick-borne Disease Prevention

There are at least 15 types of ticks found in Illinois alone, and with summer fast approaching, learning to keep them away can help keep you safe from many diseases, including Lyme disease.

Downers Grove Clinic
Illinois Nature Trail with pathway trailing off into the distance

Prevention is important, especially during the warmer months when they are most active.


The best way to avoid ticks is to know where to expect them. Ticks are unable to jump or drop. They climb to the tips of weeds, leaves, or grass and wait for a host to brush against them. This can be you, your pet, or other animals. The easiest way to protect yourself is to keep your skin covered and tuck your pants into your socks or boots before going outdoors. You should also apply permethrin to clothing and treat skin with insect repellants that contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. When possible, walk in the center of a trail and avoid the underbrush. After you get home, be sure to shower off the insect repellant and do a thorough tick check on yourself, children, and pets. The CDC recommends paying special attention to your underarms, ears, belly button, hair, and groin, as noted in the image below. 

How to Remove

If you notice a tick, remove it as soon as possible. The longer they are allowed to feed, the greater the chance of disease transmission. DO NOT use petroleum jelly (Vaseline), nail polish, turpentine, or alcohol or burn them with a match. Those techniques can cause the tick to have a stress response that makes disease transmission more likely to occur. Instead, grasp the tick firmly with tweezers, getting the tip as close to the skin as possible. Pull away gently and steadily, avoiding twisting. Finish by washing the area thoroughly with soap and water and applying antiseptic to the bite. Dispose of the tick by flushing it down a toilet or wrapping it in tape. If you remove a tick from yourself or a family member, contact your doctor, as they may want to put you on a preventative medicine in case you were exposed to Lyme disease.

Symptoms of Tick-Borne Illnesses   

If the tick has already fed, the bite will often have a small black dot surrounded by a red bump with a hardened center. Watch the area closely for at least two weeks for a ring-like red rash. Tick-borne illnesses can cause many symptoms, including fever, chills, aches and pains, and other rashes.

If you have any concerns after an encounter, be sure to contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible. In the meantime, do your best to prevent tick bites so that you can get outside and enjoy the summer ahead!

Tick Prevention Diagram

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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