Bob Oley, PE, MSPH
Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Expert
Public Health and Site Consultant

Cold Weather, Ticks, and Lyme Disease

Ticks have become a year round problem in our area for many reasons, most importantly of which, there just are so many more of them in our environment. And though there are not as many types of ticks around in the winter months, the one species that can be found in the grass, shrubs and woodlands is the adult deer tick.  It is through this tick’s bite that you can become infected with Lyme disease and/or any number of other tick-borne diseases.


Adult deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed and are especially good at surviving cold conditions thanks to a protein they carry in their bodies that works much like antifreeze.  Hence, they are outside looking for a person to bite whenever temperatures are above 32 degrees and the ground is not frozen or covered with snow.


To prevent getting bitten by a tick during the winter season in tick-infested areas you cannot avoid, it is highly recommended that you wear tick repellent clothing. The clothing should be treated with permethrin, an insecticide that can be purchased from most large sporting goods stores.  Permethrin repels and kills ticks and has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe for use on clothing worn by both adults and children.  You can treat your own clothing, or purchase pre-treated clothing.  Two great websites to do so include and


Once per month you should also spray outdoor shoes, athletic gear, back packs, camping gear, etc., with permethrin to keep the ticks away. Wearing an EPA-approved tick repellent on exposed skin parts will also provide added protection, but by itself, does not work as effectively as tick repellent clothing


At the end of any outdoor activity, you should conduct full body tick checks of yourself and family members, particularly in those moist body areas where ticks like to hide such as between the toes, behind the knees, in the navel, groin area, on the back, armpits, neck, behind and in the ears, within body or neck skin folds, or on the scalp.


If you do find an attached tick, safely remove it with fine-pointed tweezers, and seek the advice of your health care provider regarding treatment options ASAP.  Time is of the essence; immediate treatment can make the difference between getting well or becoming chronically ill with Lyme disease and/or other tick-borne co-infections.  Save the tick, dead or alive and place it in a zip-lock bag.  There are labs across the country, where the tick can be mailed, which can analyze the tick to see if it is carrying disease organisms, which may have been transferred to you through its bite.


If you follow these recommendations and use good common “tick sense” when engaging in cold weather activities, you can steer clear of ticks and avoid the suffering a tick bite can lead to.