How to Prepare for the Annual Tick Invasion

Verani Realty

close up of tickExperts say that this year will bring us a tick apocalypse, thanks to the wet spring weather and mild winter. It is wise for everyone to take precautions to avoid contact with these tiny pests, even while heading out into your beautiful back yard.

Ticks are parasites that carry a myriad of infectious diseases – the most well-known being Lyme disease – depending on the type of tick. Essentially, they are blood-feeders that require an animal host to survive and reproduce, and they feed on a wide variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, and even amphibians.

The scary fact is that about 75% of all Lyme disease cases are acquired from ticks picked up during activities around the home – not from a hike in the woods. But there are some things you can do to protect you and your family from tick bites and the potential for contracting Lyme disease.

Prevent Ticks from Living in Your Yard

Here are some simple landscaping techniques that can help reduce tick populations:

  • Remove old piles of leaves.

  • Clear out tall grasses and brush around your home and at the edge of lawns.

  • Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.

  • Keep your lawn cut short.

  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees.

  • Put up fencing to discourage unwelcome animals (such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs) from entering the yard.

  • Remove old furniture or any old trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.

While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.

Avoid the Ticks’ Biggest Habitat

Your yard can be a tick habitat, but even greater populations can be found in other areas.

  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.

Repel Ticks

Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours.

  • Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply the product to their children and avoid hands, eyes, and mouth.

Look for Ticks After Being Outside

  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Check children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.

  • Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.

  • Shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.

  • Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended.

What to Do When You’re Bitten by a Tick

If you spot a tick, remove it as soon as you notice it using tweezers – the sooner you catch it, the better your chances of preventing disease transmission. Wash the site of the bite, and keep the tick for identification purposes. It’s important to stay vigilant in the following days for any flu-like symptoms or symptoms of infection.

Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected blacklegged ticks.  Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics, so if you notice a rash or flu-like symptoms after a bite, visit your doctor as soon as you can.

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