The best way to prevent Lyme and other tick-borne diseases is to avoid areas where ticks live. This sounds like a simple solution but turns out to be an impractical one, especially for those of us who love the great outdoors. Here are some practical ways you can reduce your risk of being bitten by a tick.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
- Ticks are most plentiful in areas where woodlands transition into fields, meadows or yards. In fact, many Lyme patients contract tick-borne diseases in their own yards.
- Ticks are often found in tall grass, gardens or mulch beds.
- When hiking, walk in the middle of trails.
- Leaf litter, woodpiles and rock walls are areas of high tick concentration.
- Coastal areas with beach grass also harbor ticks.
- Wear light-colored clothing so you can spot ticks more easily.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt, tucked in at the waist and long pants tucked into high socks when in Lyme endemic areas.
- Wear a hat and tuck your hair in, if possible.
- Don’t walk barefoot or in open sandals except on pavement. Even short grass can harbor ticks.
Wear closed-toe shoes or boots.
Use Tick Repellent
- Wear tick-repellent clothing that’s treated with permethrin, an insecticide that repels and kills ticks. Purchase pre-treated clothing (good for 70 washings) from a number of well-known clothing companies or you may spray your own clothing with it (good for 6 washings), follow manufacturers’ directions.
- Spray footwear with permethrin to prevent ticks from crawling up your shoes.
- Apply EPA-approved repellents with ingredients such as DEET, oil of eucalyptus or picaridin to exposed skin.
- Protect your pets! Even if you’re not especially outdoorsy, your pets can bring ticks into the house and on to you. Ask your veterinarian about products that minimize your pet’s tick risk.
Check for Ticks Frequently
- Remove a tick before it has a chance to transmit disease. To learn how to identify a tick, click here.
- When you come in for the day, toss your clothes into a dryer at high temperatures for 10-15 minutes. This will kill any live ticks. Putting them in the washer, however, will not.
- Shower or bathe as soon as possible to wash away any unattached ticks. Feel for bumps that might be embedded ticks. Pay particular attention to the backs of knees, groin, armpits, in and behind the ears, belly button and scalp.
MYTH #1: Lyme always causes a bull’s-eye rash.
FACT: Less than 50% of those infected with Lyme develop a bull’s-eye rash.
MYTH #2: You’ll know when you’ve been bitten by a tick.
FACT: Ticks have a numbing agent in their saliva, so you don’t feel a bite.
MYTH #3: Lyme is an East Coast illness only.
FACT: Although more prevalent in the Northeast and Midwest, Lyme has been reported in all 50 states and is growing globally.
MYTH #4: Ticks fall from trees.
FACT: Despite the myth, ticks don’t fly, jump or fall from trees onto a host. They climb up your body until they attach and feed.
MYTH #5: You have to be near deer to be exposed to deer ticks.
FACT: Not true. Black legged ticks also feed on small mice, squirrels, rabbits, birds, dogs and cats.