Graphic showing the deer tick at four stages of development.

Not only can you find beautiful beaches on Cape Cod, but you can find ticks as well! Below you can learn some quick facts about what kinds of ticks you need to look out for, and easy tips on how to protect yourself from getting bitten.  Remember, it’s never a good idea to get bitten by a tick!

Ticks may be infected with an assortment of viruses, bacteria or parasites.  These pathogens may be transmitted to humans or animals who are bitten by an infected tick.  Lyme disease is widespread throughout Cape Cod and the Islands, along with other tick-borne diseases.  

Ticks found on Cape Cod are the Deer Tick, Lone Star Tick, and Dog Tick. Deer ticks can be active year-round, even in the winter.  

What can I do to protect myself?

Whenever you spend time outdoors, particularly in areas that are known tick habitats, following these tips will decrease your likeliness of being bitten by a tick:

  • Stay on the trail. Wandering off into the underbrush or leaf litter will increase your chances of coming into contact with a tick.
  • Wear shoes, not sandals. Nymph stage deer seeds are the size of poppy seeds, and the larvae are even smaller, so they can certainly get into sandals and even through the fibers of some socks.  Wearing treated clothing is important, and tucking your pant legs into your socks when hiking will minimize access to exposed skin.
  • Treat yourself and your clothing with a recommended repellent.  Treat your clothing and shoes with Permethrin, and use an EPA-approved repellent on exposed skin.
  • After outdoor activities, check for ticks! Check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks.  Place your clothing in the dryer for 20 minutes to kill any ticks you may have missed, as they are vulnerable to extreme heat.

The use of repellents is an extremely effective way to prevent tick bites, with Permethrin being the most effective while also providing long-lasting protection.  This product is not to be applied to skin, but to clothing and footwear, and lasts through multiple washings. According to the University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center:

  • Permethrin is over 2,250 times more toxic to ticks than humans, so just a little bit provides great protection safely.
  • The EPA states "...There is reasonable certainty that Permethrin-treated clothing poses no harm to infants or children".
  • Put directly on the skin, typically less than 1% of active ingredient is absorbed into the body; DEET can be absorbed at over 20 times that rate.
  • Exposure risk of Permethrin-treated clothing to toddlers is 27 times below the EPA’s Level of Concern (LOC).
  • A 140 lb. person would have no adverse health effects if exposed to 32 grams of permethrin/day. There is less than 1 gram of permethrin in an entire bottle of clothing treatment.
  • A 5% cream (10 times the dose of permethrin used for tick prevention) is recommended to treat children and infants with mites called scabies.

For additional information, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health fact sheet on repellents is a useful resource, as well as their website on tick-borne diseases.

What should I do if I am bitten by a tick?

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in your skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  • We recommend sending the tick to be tested by the Laboratory of Medical Zoology at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. The report they provide is a valuable tool that can help you make informed decisions concerning your medical care, and residents of the Cape and Islands receive a discounted rate on tick testing. More information is available at www.tickreport.com.
  • Contact your medical provider.

Visit the Cape Cod Extension website to see more videos and information from Larry Dapsis, the Barnstable County Entomologist, concerning ticks and tick-bite prevention.