I’ve often wondered why experts recommend showering after hiking through tick infested areas and why does it reduces your risk of getting infected with tick borne illness. It’s obviously easier to check your body without clothes, but do ticks wash off in the shower?
According to the CDC showering after going outdoors will reduce your risk of getting tickborne disease. You will be able to do a tick check and it might help wash off unattached ticks. It won’t get rid of attached ticks, but showering will help you find them.
As a regular hiker and camper I’ve had to deal with more ticks than I can count. I’m constantly walking through tick infested forests and thankfully I’ve never caught Lyme Disease. The rest of this article will teach you how to check for ticks in the shower.
Do Ticks Wash Off In The Shower?
It is possible to wash a tick off in the shower, but you have to catch it early. You can only remove a tick with tweezers after it starts burrowing into your skin.
Washing away ticks isn’t the only reason why experts recommend showering after traveling through tick country. It gives you the opportunity to feel around for ticks and do a complete body check.
Feel around for slight bumps on your skin. You want to check your entire body, but you’ll want to pay special attention to the following areas. Remember that ticks love warm, dark, wet environments.
- Check between joints(behind the knees, elbows, and armpits)
- Behind your ears
- Under your hairline (anywhere covered in hair)
Showering within 2 hours of coming indoors will significantly reduce your risk of being infected with tickborne illness (according to the CDC). It will both wash off ticks and give you a good opportunity to check your body for ticks.
No amount of soap and water will be able to wash off ticks after biting you, but can hot water kill ticks?
Does Washing In Hot Water Kill Ticks? What Temperature Kills Ticks?
Washing in hot water might be able to kill ticks, but not at the temperatures most people use to shower. Even though most residential hot water tanks are set over 140 degrees the average shower is 112 degrees.
Ticks die in hot environments, but that’s not going to be hot enough to kill them. According to this academic study you need water temperatures greater than 130 degrees to kill ticks. That’s possible in a washing machine, but not the shower.
How Do I Check For Ticks On My Body?
Checking for ticks isn’t rocket science! Run your hands over your entire body checking for irregularities. Ticks can be the size of needle-tip so go slow and check thoroughly.
Make sure you pay special attention to areas with hair, joints and skin folds. Finding a tick doesn’t automatically mean you’ll end up with Lyme Disease. Not every tick carries disease and antibiotics should help kill the infection.
Can Ticks Infest My House?
Ticks can be brought into the house on your clothes or pets, but there’s very little chance they’ll live there. Ticks only lay eggs in the soil so infestation is inlikely, but they might drop off and crawl around for a day or two looking for a blood meal.
Don’t worry! Ticks usually live for 24 hours (max 2-3 days) in a household environment. You can significantly reduce the risk of bringing in ticks by keeping gear outside and washing your clothing immediately.
How Long Can Ticks Live On Clothing?
Ticks can’t survive on clothing for long. They can survive on wet clothes for 2-3 days in a hamper. You can get ticks off your clothes by tossing them in the washer and dryer on high heat.
I usually wash my clothes immediately after coming home from a camping or backpacking trip. All it takes is 15-20 minutes in the dryer or a hot water wash cycle to kill ticks. Sometimes I’ll skip the wash and head straight for the dryer since it’s better at killing ticks.
Keep your backpack and the rest of your gear in the garage to avoid bringing in ticks and other bugs.
Preventing Ticks Should Be Your First Priority
Checking your body for ticks is important, but preventing them should be your main focus. Follow this 5 step approach to reduce your risk of infection.
- Wear protective clothing to reduce risk of exposure. Long pants, thick socks, and long sleeve shirts. Avoid going into the woods with exposed ankles.
- Use bug sprays containing DEET and Permethrin to repel ticks
- Clear tall grass around your home, take control of weeds, and keep regularly used areas away from shrubs, bushes, and vegetation. Stay on the main path when hiking and avoid overgrown weeds.
- Wash/dry your clothes after getting home. This will kill ticks that have attached to your clothing.
- Shower within 2 hours of being outside and check your body for ticks. Remove ticks using tweezers and check for signs of infection. Refer to the CDC Website for more information on Lyme Disease.
Clothes to Prevent Ticks
Clothing is your first line of defense when traveling through tick infested areas. Experts recommend wearing long sleeve shirts, long pants, thick socks, and hots. If a tick can’t find exposed skin, he won’t be able to bite you.
That’s great advice in the spring but not possible in hot weather. I usually hike in tall merino wool socks (Smartwool), hiking boots, shorts and t-shirt in the summer.
Use Bug Spray and Spray Clothes With Permethrin
Products containing DEET have been proven to repel ticks and other insects. There are some health concerns when using DEET, but it’s generally safe for adults.
Don’t Forget to Check Dogs
Ticks don’t discriminate against pets (all blood tastes good). Dogs and cats are especially susceptible to ticks since they’re closer to the ground.
Make sure you check your dog after a long hike and watch for a sudden change in energy levels.
What If I Find a Tick?
Don’t Panic! Your odds of catching Lyme Disease in the first 24 hours are very low. It usually takes a full day before they finish burrowing and start feasting on your blood. Just check whenever you get home.
All you need is a set of tweezers to remove a tick. Grasp the tick near the base of it’s body without squeezing and slowly pull upward. Try to make sure you get the entire body out of your skin to reduce your risk of infection.
Use tweezers to get the parts of the mouth that remain. Sometimes you can’t remove everything. Clean the area with soap and water and watch for signs of Lyme Disease over the next 30 days. Look for a rash and general flu-like symptoms.
The following video should help you remove ticks using tweezers.