No One Likes Ticks. Protect Yourself From Them Without Blowing Your Budget

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Ticks are sneaky little jerks.

They like to hide in hair, behind your knees, between your toes and all sorts of other out of the way places where they won’t be noticed.

Aside from the squick factor of having a tiny interloper attached to your body, ticks are generally bad news. You definitely want to find and remove them as soon as possible.

The Tick Ick Factor

The biggest problem with ticks is they carry diseases like Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and a whole lot of other illnesses with long medical names.

Tick-borne illnesses are no joke.

Some do strange things like rewire your chemistry so you suddenly become allergic to meat. Others can be fatal or leave you with long-term medical conditions that are difficult to treat.

I don’t want to scare you with all kinds of statistics and data on how many people get tick-sick every year. I’ll let the University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter Resource Center do it for me.

Where Ticks Call Home

We generally think of ticks as living in lush forests, grassy areas or moist environments. While those are their favorite places to hang out, you can pick up a tick just about anywhere — even the middle of New York City.

And I do mean anywhere. There is at least one tick species in every state except Alaska. You’ll even find them in Hawaii.

These interactive maps from the Center for Disease Control can tell you exactly what types of ticks live in your state and which diseases they transmit.

Inexpensive Ways to Protect Yourself From Ticks

The key to protecting yourself against tick bites is to not let them hitch a ride on your skin in the first place.

The Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services says:  

  • When hiking, stay in the center of the trails so you’re as far away from trees and bushes as possible.
  • Cover as much of your skin as possible, including wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into your socks. You may get hot and you may not look super fashionable, but ticks really hate it when you dress like that.

It costs a total of around $20 for both products. Repellents without these powerful extra ingredients may be less expensive — but they’re also less effective.

For an added layer of protection against tick bites, consider fortifying the environment around you.

I have no idea why, but ticks like to lay their eggs in mouse nests.

Lots of eggs. So very many eggs.

Female ticks can lay as many as 8,000 eggs at a time. (If it’s any consolation, she then drops dead.)

To help keep the tick population down where you live, make tick tubes to let mice help you eradicate the little buggers.

Just cram a few permethrin-soaked cotton balls in cardboard tubes you’ve saved from rolls of paper towels and toilet paper and leave them around your yard. When the mice drag the cotton back to their nests, the permethrin will promptly kill all the little ticks in the area.

A bottle of Permethrin costs about $30, but it lasts a long time and also kills fleas, mosquitos, bedbugs, termites and a host of other creepy-crawlies.

You can also soak the cotton balls in less expensive all-natural plant oils like rosemary, lemongrass, or garlic oil but the CDC says, “products made from these ingredients have not been evaluated by [Environmental Protection Agency] for effectiveness.”

No matter which option you try, it’s likely to be less expensive than having professional exterminators treat your yard for $100 per month or more.

Tick Removal Doesn’t Have to Cost a Lot

No matter how solid your tick precautions are, it’s possible one might clamp down on you anyway. After all, something the size of a poppy seed can pretty easily slip undetected through the tiniest of holes.

If you find one on yourself, don’t panic.

You’ll want it off you as soon as possible, but you need to do it safely.

Harvard Medical School recommends you ignore folk remedies like touching it with a hot match or freezing it off. It probably won’t help and can definitely make things worse.

You also don’t need a pricy tick removal kit or fancy tools.

The CDC says, “a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.”

Simply grasp the tick with the tweezers and pull straight up. The CDC walks you through the process, including how to properly dispose of the tiny carcass.

While most tick bites are harmless, don’t leave things to chance.

For the cost of a couple of pizzas, you can protect your family and pets from ticks and avoid the “completely preventable” diseases they carry.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She looked at tick pictures all day so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.