Summer and warm weather are on the horizon, and with the warmer temperatures comes the rise of tick presence. From early spring through October, both humans and pets are at an increased risk for bites from ticks carrying pathogens like Lyme disease – regardless of whether they live in an urban or rural area.
Here are the phases for a comprehensive plan that you can implement as soon as summer arrives.
1. Avoid Tick Habitats & Create Tick-Safe Environments
Shady areas, moderate to tall grass and vegetation, leaf litter and woodpiles are all places where ticks can thrive. Stay in the middle of the hiking path whenever possible and avoid grass that is taller than your lawn.
At home, try to create as many tick-free zones on your property as possible by:
- Removing leaf litter.
Stacking woodpiles and position bird baths and feeders away from the recreational areas in your yard.
Landscaping with bushes and plants that do not attract deer.
Keeping playsets and other recreational areas away from tall grass, bushes and damp, shady areas.
Installing permethrin-treated tick tubes in flower beds, woodpiles or other places where mice tend to live on your property. The chemical is harmless to mice and will coat their fur – turning them into tiny tick killers.
Having your property perimeter, pathways and shady flowerbeds treated with insecticide sprays or granules.
Creating tick barriers between your lawn and wooded or unmown areas of your property using gravel or woodchips.
- Do not get discouraged by this daunting list. Doing any one or two of the items is better than doing nothing at all.
2. Apply Protection Before going Outdoors
Combining permethrin-treated clothing (or specially-designed, chemical-free Rynoskin clothing) with skin repellent will provide a personal layer of defense against ticks.
Permethrin is safe for humans and can be applied to both the inside and outside of clothing items (and camping gear) to effectively repel and kill ticks.
You can treat your own clothing at home, mail it in to a treatment company or buy pre-treated clothing.
Apply skin repellent to the areas on your body that are not covered by treated clothing. There are several skin repellents on the market, with varying effective timeframes and active ingredients. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s usage directions and avoid products that combine repellent with sunscreen.
3. “De-Tick” After Coming Back Indoors
There are three crucial steps for any “de-ticking” protocol.
First, as soon as you come inside, disrobe and tumble dry your clothes on high heat (without washing them) – 10 minutes (gas) or 15 minutes (electric). Studies have shown that dry heat kills ticks.
Damp or wet clothing should be tumble dried on high heat for at least 60-90 minutes.
Muddy clothes should be washed in hot water (130°or higher). If you must wash the clothes in cold or warm water, be careful handling them between the washer and dryer, because ticks could survive those wash cycles. Then you can tumble dry them for 60 minutes (high heat) to 90 minutes (low heat) or until completely dry.
The second “de-ticking” step is a full-body tick check.
Do a thorough tick check, starting with your feet (especially between your toes) and moving upward (the typical travel pattern for most ticks).
Carefully check your feet and ankles, behind the knees, inner thighs, pelvic area, waist, bellybutton (especially inside), back, underarms, in and around ears and your scalp (especially around the hairline).
Finally, shower as soon as possible after coming back inside.
Showering will help you shed any ticks still unattached, make your skin smoother so that hard ticks are easier to feel and wash off any remaining skin repellent.
Creating a comprehensive prevention plan will help you enjoy the great outdoors with your family in the months when ticks are most active.
For more information about all of the above prevention phases – as well as proper tick removal procedures, post-tick bite symptoms to watch for and a wealth of information and research regarding ticks and Lyme disease – go to indianalymeconnect.org.
Be safe and have fun this spring, summer and fall!