Avoiding Lyme Disease

Avoid Tick-Infested Areas
It may be the time for picnics and family outings, but April through July is also deer tick season. Deer tick nymphs and adults seldom climb higher than 4 to 5 feet on weeds, brush or walls. Usually they occur in weeds and brush that is 2 to 20 inches high, so few ticks are found in a mowed lawn or a mowed field. If ticks are in your area, they are commonly found in the edges between the forest and the fields, in fencerows, in brush piles, on stone walls, in flower gardens, and in vegetable gardens. In such places, ticks have plenty of places to perch while waiting for a ride and a blood meal. If you are going to be active in such areas, be prepared with this three-point plan: Dress appropriately, use repellents on your clothes and on you, and inspect carefully. These points are explained next.

Dress Appropriately
If you live in an area or are visiting an area likely to support deer ticks, the best protection is to dress properly:

Avoid going barefoot or using open sandals when out in tall grassy areas.

Shorts and brief shirts are only safe if you are not brushing against weeds, tall grass, or shrubs.

If you are walking in the woods, in fields or where weeds can brush against you, wear a hat, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt or blouse, and closed shoes or boots, and tuck your pant legs into socks. Wear light-colored clothing to make it easy to find any ticks.

If desired, you can purchase special outerwear made of insect-proof netting (available from sporting goods suppliers). In hot weather, you can wear shorts under this outerwear and still be protected from ticks—or any other biting insects.

Use Tick Repellents
Two types of personal repellents work well against ticks especially when used simultaneously. One is applied to your clothes, the other to areas of exposed skin.

Tick Repellent For Clothes - Spray clothes with a product containing permethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide. This is not to be applied to the skin. When sprayed on clothing items it makes them lethal to ticks for about 2 weeks. Go to Yardener’s Tool Shed and check out the file Personal Mosquito and Tick Repellents

Tick Repellent For Bare Skin - To protect bare skin, you have some choices. Many people use repellents containing the compound N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, commonly called "DEET". DEET has become somewhat controversial in that there is some evidence that it is dangerous for children. Therefore, we recommend using repellents that do not contain DEET. See Yardener’s Tool Shed for examples in Personal Mosquito and Tick Repellents.

If adults do use a DEET product, we recommend that you use products containing no more than 34% of this active ingredient. Stronger formulas can cause allergic reactions in some adults.

Inspect Regularly
If you have been out in an area suspected to house deer ticks, it is wise to inspect yourself and any children that went with you to detect any hitchhiking ticks. Do this even if everyone was wearing protective clothing. While outside, check everyone at least every 2 to 3 hours.

Look for any “freckles” that seem to move. Pay special attention to areas behind the ears, under the arms, in the groin area, around the ankles, on the arms, and in the hair. To inspect the hair, comb through it slowly and carefully with the comb scraping along the scalp. If you encounter any bumps, remove the comb and search the area with your fingers and your eyes. Have a pair of tweezers handy.

Don’t Forget Your Pets! During tick season, monitor dogs and cats by combing and inspecting each time they come in from outside. They can alert you to the first ticks appearing in your area. A deer tick attached to the pet cannot drop off and then attach itself to you. Remember, the common dog tick is much larger than the deer tick, so don't panic just because you find a tick on your pet. Determine whether it is a deer tick before becoming concerned.

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