Information is Power! We can use what we know about ticks, to better protect ourselves.
Since adult ticks are dark colored, wearing light clothing when going outside makes them much more visible.
Also, clothing barriers can provide a good measure of protection. Practically speaking, this means wearing long pants tucked into socks, especially when gardening, hiking, or playing outdoors.
Since ticks wait for hosts on tall grasses and low bushes, when hiking, you can minimize the chance for contact with ticks, by staying in the middle of the trails away from contact with brush.
When coming in from outside activities where you might have encountered ticks, it’s a good idea to throw clothing into the dryer set on high heat. Ticks are very sensitive to heat. (Many ticks can survive a warm or hot wash, but they can’t withstand an hour in a hot dryer.) The CDC says an hour at high heat will kill the ticks, but there is research that shows that throwing dry clothes in a hot dryer for even 15 minutes is sufficient.
Well-tended lawns are not ideal places for ticks. With that in mind, the CDC suggests that we make lawns safer from ticks by doing the following:
- Remove leaf litter.
- Clear tall grasses and brush around homes 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.
- Mow the lawn frequently.
- Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that carry ticks).
- Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees.
The old New England poet probably didn’t have ticks in mind when he wrote “Good fences make good neighbors,” but a good fence will discourage tick carrying animals such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs, from bringing ticks onto your lawn.
There is no shortcut for doing a daily tick check. This includes checking your kids and your pets. Bites are usually painless and, consequently, most people will be unaware that they have an attached tick without a careful check. A hypersensitivity reaction to tick bite may aid detection in a few individuals, but most people will be unaware a tick is attached and feeding. As sooner is better – its best to get in the habit of checking for ticks as soon as you get indoors. This means carefully inspecting the entire body and removing any attached ticks. To avoid missing spots, its helpful to start from the ground up. Ticks may feed anywhere on the body, but as they like warm spots with good blood flow, remembering to check around your sock line, the groin, the arm pits, the neck, behind the ears, and at the top of your head.
Also, shower every day. With ticks, this literally may be a way to have your problems get washed down the drain!
As pets that have outside exposure can easily bring ticks into the home – don’t let them sleep in your bed or hang out on your furniture. Ticks can survive for months without feeding – so letting your pet on the couch creates an opportunity for ticks to patiently wait there for a new host.
Use repellent. Take the time to put a repellent on your family members, including your dogs. In order to maximize the effectiveness of any repellent, make sure you apply it thoroughly to shoes, socks, legs or any part that is likely to come into contact with the ground or shrubs. Although no repellent is 100% effective at repelling ticks, some ingredients may significantly reduce the incidence of tick bites. If you decide to go with a natural repellent, Geranium Oil is one ingredient to look for on the list. A study published in the March 2013 edition of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that, in a laboratory setting, Geranium Oil repelled ticks as effectively as DEET. Other essential oils such as lemongrass, citronella, and cedar wood have also been found to discourage ticks.