5 Common Tick Bite Symptoms, and 8 Ways to Prevent Getting Bit

Practical advice for hunters who spend a lot of time in the woods

how to remove a tick
Using tweezers or specialized tick removal tools, pull it immediately and from as close to the skin surface as possible.CDC

Top 5 Symptoms

Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, ticks will find a way to your skin. Seek treatment if you have any of these common indicators.

1. Bull's-Eye Rash: A common sign of Lyme disease, but this symptom does not present in 30 percent of Lyme victims.

2. Spotted Rash on Hands and Arms: Only associated with cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but up to 30 percent of victims don't have a visible rash.

3. Flu-Like Condition: Fever; lingering, severe headaches; chills; various aches and pains.

4. Joint and Muscle Pain: A common symptom for a variety of tick-related illnesses.

5. Extreme Fatigue: Another common symptom that is sometimes the sole sign of infection.

Top 8 Prevention Tips

The CDC offers some basic advice for avoiding ticks: “Walk in the center of trails” and “Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass.” Apparently, no one at the CDC has experienced the thrill of a strutting gobbler in the spring woods. Here are some vital prevention tips that are actually useful for turkey hunters.

1. Use Permethrin: A number of permethrin-based products, like Sawyer Insect Repellent, will keep ticks off you. Apply it to your clothing and let it dry. It's EPA-approved and lasts up to six weeks, even if your outerwear gets wet. Many tick researchers use it. ($10; sawyer.com)

2. Check Yourself: Check every inch of your body after you spend time outdoors, no matter how many other precautions you take. If you feel an itch, it might be a tiny tick embedded in your skin.

3. Turn Up the Heat: After the hunt, toss your clothing into a dryer and run it for 10 minutes on high heat to kill any ticks on your clothing.

tick bite symptoms
The iconic "target" rash that sometimes—but not always—accompanies Lyme disease.Alamy

4. Pull It: The sooner you pull an attached tick, the less likely you are to get infected. Don't apply peppermint oil or Vaseline and wait. Viruses can transmit in minutes, although bacteria can take hours. Using tweezers or specialized tick removal tools, pull it immediately and from as close to the skin surface as possible.

5. Spray Before You Sit: Keep a can of insecticide with you and spray the surrounding brush and trees before you sit to work a gobbler.

6. DEET: Products like Deep Woods Off and Cutter contain DEET, an effective insect repellent. It doesn't last long, so reapply regularly as you hunt. ($10; off.com)

7. Get Thicker Skin: GameHide's ElimiTick outerwear line comes in a variety of popular camo patterns and is specifically designed to keep bugs off you. It is also treated with a permethrin-based product. ($50 to $80; gamehide.com)

8. Down Under Protection: Rynoskin undergarments are tight-fitting, which helps prevent ticks, chiggers, and mosquitoes from biting. Great if you prefer not to wear chemically treated clothes. ($40; rynoskin.com)