Lyme disease is the most common tick-transmitted illness in the U.S., with more than 427,000 new cases every year. These tiny deer ticks, often no larger than a poppy seed or a grain of sand, are active all year round, but they’re most plentiful during the summer months when they are in their juvenile stage of development.  Unfortunately, these “nymphs” are so tiny, they’re often difficult to spot. Unsurprisingly, children are at particular risk for tick bites, especially as they spend so much time outdoors.

So, here are some suggestions to help protect campers and staff from tick-borne diseases:

  • Know where ticks live. Ticks thrive in shady, wooded areas, taller grasses, leaf piles and beach grass. When you plan outdoor activities, avoid having kids lean against tree trunks, sit on grass or on fallen logs. Ask campers to stay in the middle of hiking paths to avoid brushing against foliage and long grasses.
  • Recommend tick-repellent clothing. While children are at camp, we recommend they wear clothing treated with permethrin, an insecticide that repels and kills ticks and mosquitos on contact. Its formula is safe and EPA-approved, and can be used on clothing worn by children. Parents can spray it on their child’s clothes at home or can purchase pre-treated clothing and gear with the Insect Shield label from retailers such as LL Bean or REI. Parents can also send clothing directly to Insect Shield to be treated.
  • Don’t forget to spray shoes. Since most ticks crawl onto people from the ground, spraying closed-toe footwear with permethrin is one of the best defenses against ticks. (One study found that those with treated shoes had 74% fewer tick bites that those with untreated shoes).
  • Make sure campers use repellent on exposed skin. Studies show that EPA-approved, CDC-recommended repellents containing 20% Picaridin, 20%-30% DEET, or 30% natural Lemon Eucalyptus oil are the most effective
  • Do full body tick checks. Tick bites are painless so it’s important for campers to perform regular tick checks after being outdoors and at night before bedtime. Teach campers to pay particular attention to areas between the toes, behind the knees and ears, armpits, groin, belly button, neck, hair and scalp.
  • Know what symptoms to look for. Camp nurses and counselors should look for flu-like symptoms following a tick bite. Staff should also be sure to check smaller children for ticks and signs of Lyme.
  • For additional protection, look for a camp that has implemented an on-grounds tick control program.

Global Lyme Alliance offers a “Be Tick AWARE” Prevention Kit as a fun and easy way to teach campers and camp staffs how to protect themselves from a tick bite. Each kit includes a poster with awareness tips, a tick removal tool, a “Check 4 Ticks” body check poster and  a tick ID card with magnifier and case. For information, email or visit


Scott Santarella is CEO of Global Lyme Alliance (GLA), the leading 501(c)(3) dedicated to conquering Lyme and other tick-borne diseases through research, education and awareness.

For more information about ticks and other tick-bourne illnesses, check out the American Camp Association's Ticks - What Every Camp Needs to Know