To get rid of ticks, make sure to stay on top of yard maintenance, and check yourself, kids, and pets for ticks thoroughly after spending time outdoors.
While their death toll might not rank as highly as mosquitoes, ticks can carry a whole host of deadly and debilitating diseases, including Lyme disease.
They can’t survive easily in indoor spaces, so you won’t often find an infestation in a home, but it’s still possible they could be camping out in your backyard—where the majority of tick bites that result in Lyme disease happen.
How to tell if you’ve got a tick problem
Ticks are parasitic arachnids that can be found in all 48 contiguous U.S. states, and brown dog ticks can be found in
Hawaii. They prefer shaded areas, like woods, long grass, and weedy spots where they can hide from the hot sun, stay in the moist environment they need to survive, and patiently wait for their next host.
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What do ticks look like?
In their larval stage, a tick will only have 6 legs, but by the time they become an adult, that number will grow to 8 legs. They have flat bodies in the shape of a teardrop (which you might shed if you find one on you) that can range from light to reddish-brown to black.
Ticks’ sizes vary depending on the species, but generally, adults will grow to be less than half an inch in length. As they suck their host’s blood, however, their bodies will become more bulbous and they’ll grow in size.
What attracts ticks to your home
You’re more likely to find ticks outside in wooded or overgrown areas that give them plenty of places to hide while they look for a host.
Ticks are more likely to invade your yard than your home itself, especially if you live near a wooded area. They might get carried into your yard by deer, rabbits, or ticks, or they might be enticed by long, unmowed grass.
Still, they can often take up residence in your home if they’ve hitchhiked in on you or a pet after spending some time outdoors, but typically they can’t reproduce or survive very long indoors.
How to find ticks in your yard
If you suspect you might have ticks in your yard but haven’t been able to find them, here’s a quick trick you can try:
- Attach a piece of fabric (about 6 square inches or so) to a long pole
- Walk with the pole and drag it along grassy or weedy areas you suspect might have ticks
Ticks will often be tempted to latch onto the cloth. If you end up with a cloth full of ticks, you’ll be able to confirm your suspicions were correct.
It’s a good idea to wear protective clothing as well as tick repellent as you do this to keep the ticks from latching onto you in addition to the fabric.
If you do end up with ticks on you, you must remove them from your body promptly and safely.
Dos and don’ts: removing a tick from your body
Luckily, most tick bites end up being harmless if you remove them quickly. At the same time, however, the majority—about70%—of Lyme disease cases from ticks happen in people’s own backyards.
And it’s not just Lyme disease. Different tick species can carry dozens of
dangerous diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Bourbon virus, and Colorado tick fever.
In most cases, removing a tick from your body within 24 hours is enough to help you avoid disease from a tick bite.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of poor advice that tends to get circulated about getting rid of ticks properly. The following are actions to avoid:
- Don’t squeeze ticks! This could release contaminants from the tick into your body
- Don’t use gasoline, petroleum jelly, or matches to kill a tick
The most effective way to remove a tick is by using tweezers to pull the tick from your skin. Here’s how:
- Be sure to aim for the tick’s head and avoid squeezing the body
- Pull the tick straight back and away from the skin
- After removing the tick, continue using the tweezers to handle it and place it in alcohol, a sealed plastic bag, wrap it in tape, or flush it down the toilet, per CDC recommendations
- If you’re unable to remove the tick, or you’ve noticed a rash developing around the bite area, visit your doctor
In addition to rashes, see your doctor if you develop a fever, chills, or aches and pains within a couple of weeks of getting bitten by a tick.
9 ways to get rid of ticks
If you’ve found ticks in and/or around your house, there are several things you can do to get rid of them. Here are 10 steps to consider:
- Spray eucalyptus oil: Using eucalyptus oil around your home can help deter and kill ticks—but it can also be toxic to pets, so think twice before using it
- Use diatomaceous earth where you’ve found ticks: Food-grade diatomaceous earth tends to be safe for people and pets, but it’s fatal for ticks
- Use cedar shavings: Using cedar mulch in the landscaping around your house might be enough to help deter ticks from coming too close
- Wash and dry your clothes in high heat to kill ticks that might be lingering on your clothing
- Shower after spending time outdoors: Showering within a couple of hours of being outdoors has been shown to reduce the risk of Lyme disease. It’s also a good time to check your body for ticks, and to wash off any that haven’t attached to you yet
- Limit humidity: Ticks need levels of at least 85% humidity to develop and reproduce, which would be difficult for the average home to reach, but it’s a good idea to monitor your home’s humidity levels anyway
- Install a fence: Ticks commonly set up camp in your yard after riding in on other animals, like deer, squirrels, or mice. Installing a fence around the border of your yard might be able to more effectively keep them out
- Reorganize your yard: Keep yard items like kids’ playground equipment or gathering spaces like decks away from the cover of any trees and overgrown areas, and remove infrequently or unused items if you can to help minimize tick exposure
- Treat the perimeter of your yard with tick spray: What you use, how you apply it, and during what time of the year are extremely important for doing the most effective work and the least amount of environmental harm, so this is usually best left to a professional.
How an exterminator gets rid of ticks—and when to call them
How does an exterminator get a tick problem under control?
Since indoor environments don’t suit ticks well, you’re likely not going to need to call an exterminator for an infestation in your house. That said, they might be perfectly willing to take up residence in an uninsulated shed or a children’s outdoor playhouse.
However, if you do end up with a serious tick problem, indoors or outdoors, and are unsure about how to tackle it, an exterminator could help you come up with a plan to reduce the number of ticks on your property.
An exterminator might opt to use a fogger or acaricides (pesticides directed at ticks) to kill a tick population in your yard. Be aware that certain pesticides also could kill other critters you want around, like pollinating insects, so be mindful of that as you weigh your options.
How to keep ticks out of your house
The easiest way to prevent a tick from gaining entry into your house is to reduce the odds they’ll get near it. Here are some steps you can take to help keep ticks out of your house (and your yard):
- Check yourself and your pets thoroughly for ticks after spending time outdoors
- Keep kids and pets from playing in overgrown areas in or near your yard
- Stay on top of yard maintenance to limit ticks’ hiding places: That includes keeping your lawn mowed and limiting how much leaf litter builds up
- Use the tick repellent products for your pets, like collars and shampoos
- Weartick repellent spraysand wear clothing that adequately covers your skin before hiking or spending time in wooded areas and other tick-friendly environments
- Set up a tick-free space in your yard: Depending on the layout of your yard, you might be able to create a patio area with a tick-repellent border that uses materials like dry mulch or gravel. Ticks like moist, overgrown spaces, so the goal would be to create a warm, dry environment that they’d prefer to avoid. The CDC offers some helpful tips for creating that spacehere
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How do I keep ticks out of my house?
Indoor environments usually aren’t very suitable for ticks, but they could end up in your house by hitchhiking in on you, your pets, or other unwanted
pestslike rodents. To keep them out, check yourself and your pets for ticks thoroughly after spending time outdoors, and limit the places they might be able to hide in your yard.