Tag Archives: Bob Oley

Smart Landscaping to Outsmart Ticks at Home, Part 3 by Bob Oley

When working to make property as tick safe as possible, residents need to pay special attention to the property’s most frequently used areas. They should also keep in mind that drier areas are more apt to create low-risk tick zones.

Other easily implemented measures that can protect homes and surrounding property include:

  • Keep grass mowed short
  • Remove accumulations of leaves and brush
  • Eliminate ground cover such as pachysandra and replace with mulch
  • Keep trees, bushes and shrubs trimmed in order to reduce shade and allow more sunlight on the property
  • Create gravel or hard surfaced pathways to gardens and other commonly used areas; keep pathways free of weeds
  • Use hardscape and xeriscape landscaping practices wherever feasible to promote a drier less humid yard
  • Move children’s swing sets, sand boxes and play stations far away from the edge of woodlands and other overgrown areas, where ticks are known to thrive; relocate them in areas with full sunshine and less shade
  • Use mulch in ornamental gardens and children’s play areas as a ground cover; cedar mulch, which can act as a natural repellent to ticks, works best
  • Provide three foot wide mulch barriers around the perimeter of your property where the lawn meets the edge of woodlands or stone walls as a warning/demarcation line not to cross; maintain mulch to keep it free of weeds and brush

All these practices, taken in total as part of an integrated tick landscape management plan, will benefit you and your family. Being aware of your surroundings and smart about landscaping practices can help keep property safer from ticks and provide peace of mind as you enjoy the use of your property. In case you missed the earlier articles in this series: click here to read Part 1; click here to read Part 2.

Smart Landscaping to Outsmart Ticks at Home, Part 2 by Bob Oley

When working to protect the home and surrounding property from ticks, homeowners should deter deer from feeding on vegetation in the yard because deer are almost always infested with feeding ticks. Once fed, these ticks drop off deer wherever they happen to be, whether in flower beds or lawns.

To keep deer from entering private property, residents should install deer fencing high enough (approximately 7 to 8 feet) to prevent them from entering. If this is impractical, residents can try to eliminate plants that attract deer to the property.

Deer enjoy browsing on a variety of vegetation including apple, pear and cherry trees as well as rhododendrons, mountain laurel, rose bushes, impatiens, pansies, daisies, lilies, tulips and black-eyed Susans. While no plant species is completely immune to deer browsing; plants such as daffodils, marigolds, lily of the valley, honeysuckle, common lilac, forsythia, common boxwood, American holly, Norway spruce, wisteria and American bittersweet are their least favorite food items and generally will not attract them.

Research has shown that the majority of ticks found on a property are located in close proximity to a lawn’s perimeter (ecotone) with woodlands, stone walls, shady perennial beds and garden plantings. Thus, perimeter spraying of these particular areas with a pesticide that kills ticks can prove an important component of any landscape management plan.

The most common tick control agents used today for perimeter spraying are synthetic pyrethroids such as permethrin, befenthrin and cyfluthrin. Pyrethroids are organic compounds synthesized to be similar to the pyrethrin insecticide produced naturally by chrysanthemum flowers. When sprayed, these compounds do not leach through the soil, but are broken down over several days within the top few inches. They can prove toxic to fish in small ponds or streams, so caution must be used when spraying in close proximity to water bodies. For those not inclined to use synthetic chemicals, natural organic spray alternatives are available, such as cedar oil and a mixture of rosemary and peppermint oils.

Any perimeter spraying should be done three times each year: during the middle of May and the middle of June, to kill nymph deer ticks, and then again in the middle of October, to kill adult deer ticks.

Hardscape and xeriscape landscaping practices provide another beneficial component of a comprehensive landscape management plan. Hardscape landscaping practices make greater use of hard surfaces (as opposed to vegetated surfaces), such as flagstone patios, brick or gravel walkways, wooden decks and other similar features where family members and friends may congregate. Xeriscape landscaping incorporates plants that require less water and are thus more likely to survive in a drier environment, the type of habitat in which ticks cannot survive.

This post is part of a three-part series discussing ways to protect the home and surrounding areas from ticks. In the next article, we will offer quick tips for protecting your landscape from ticks. In case you missed the first article in this series, Part 1, click here.

Smart Landscaping to Outsmart Ticks at Home, Part 1 by Bob Oley

Over the next few weeks, TBDA will share a three-part series of posts exploring ways to protect homes and surrounding property from ticks through a comprehensive landscape management plan aimed at creating low-risk tick zones within commonly used areas. By reducing the tick population around the home, one can substantially minimize the likelihood that family members or friends will be bitten by a tick and contract one of many tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, bartonella, or other viral infections.

These low-risk zones should include recreational, dining, entertainment and gardening areas, as well as areas close to walkways, storage sheds, firewood piles and mailboxes.

Ticks require a humid environment to survive and must feed on a vertebrate host to grow and reproduce. Without these two key elements, they cannot survive. Therefore, to make property safer from ticks, homeowners should minimize the number of potential tick hosts and create a drier, less inviting landscape for ticks.

Unfortunately, ticks feed on a wide assortment of hosts, any number of which can infect them with a pathogenic organism. Immature ticks (larvae and nymphs) prefer to feed on smaller vertebrates, such as white-footed mice, chipmunks, shrews and birds; while larger adult ticks enjoy feeding on larger animals like deer, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits and opossum. Ticks are most often transported into private yards by deer that browse on plants, mice and chipmunks that live in stone walls and woodpiles, and by ground-feeding birds such as robins, finches, wrens and blue jays.

To cut back on the number of hosts found on most properties, residents should develop a strategy that disrupts their habitat. First and foremost, residents must keep their property clear of garbage or other food sources that may attract rodents, deer and other potential tick hosts. This includes bird feeders and the spillage of seeds and nuts that fall to the ground beneath them. Bird feeders should be relocated away from the house or removed entirely.

Homeowners should also eliminate heavy brush and ground cover (pachysandra, ivy, etc.) close to home and replace it with mulch and other less dense alternatives. These areas should be open to as much sunlight as possible. Rodents and other wildlife are less attracted to open and exposed areas, and ticks like these areas no better because they lose the shady, humid surroundings required for their survival.

Residents should relocate woodpiles away from their homes, as they provide nesting places for small rodents, and do away with, relocate or seal old stone walls near homes, which serve as favorite nesting places for rodents. Remember: where there are rodents, there are ticks.

This post is part of a three-part series discussing ways to protect the home and surrounding areas from ticks. In the next aritcle, we will highlight specific types of vegetation that tick hosts find more and less appealing as well as ways to protect property perimeters.

Holiday Hints by Bob Oley

It is that time of year again when we are getting in the holiday spirit, and thinking about going out and buying a Christmas tree or cutting one down on your own. Before doing so however, keep in mind that a holiday surprise may be waiting for you in the branches of the tree: that seemingly inescapable deer tick. Adult deer ticks are looking this time of year for a host to feed on, and that host could be you, a family member, or your pet.

Fortunately, deer ticks will not live very long on your tree inside your home. They require high humidity to survive, and your home just does not present that humid an environment. So if the tick does not climb onto you within the first couple of days of the tree being in your home, the odds are very good they will just fall off the tree and die.

 

So, a few helpful hints are in order:

  1. If you insist on cutting your own tree down, take the necessary precautions to prevent getting bitten by a tick when you are out in the woods and bringing your tree home. Wear clothing treated with tick repellent and treat your exposed skin with repellent as well. And just as importantly, carefully check yourself and family members for ticks at the end of the day.
  2. Consider buying a tree from a seller where you know the trees have been away from the tree farm for some days or weeks. This will give the tree an opportunity to shed itself of ticks.
  3. Keep your tree outside for a few days before bringing it into your home. Keep it stored on a hard surface such as a porch or driveway, and not your lawn or garden areas where deer ticks are likely to be present.
  4. Spray your Christmas tree skirt with permethrin, a tick repellent you can purchase from sporting good stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods or Cabelas. Any live ticks, which may come off the tree and land on the skirt, will be killed by the insecticide.

By taking a few simple precautions, you can enjoy your holiday season without having to worry about unwanted ticks on your Christmas tree.

Hidden Dangers In The Cold Fall & Winter by Bob Oley

Just when you were breathing a welcomed sigh of relief that the cold fall and winter weather would bring an end to the unforgiving spring and summer tick season, think again. Thanks to a protein in their bodies that works like antifreeze, ticks survive cold temperatures remarkably well, and can be found looking for a host to bite such as you whenever the temperature is above freezing and the ground is not frozen or covered with snow.

YEAR ROUND PROBLEM COAST TO COAST

Ticks have become a year round problem from the east coast to the west coast all across the country for a variety of reasons, most important of which, there just are so many more of them out there. And though the ticks you find in the fall and winter months are somewhat different than the ones you find in spring and summer, they can make you just as sick with Lyme disease or any number of other tick-borne diseases if you are on the receiving end of their bite. In the spring and summer months, depending on which part of the country you live in, you generally have to deal with a collection of ticks including deer ticks, Western blacklegged ticks, American dog ticks, brown dog ticks, Lone Star ticks, Gulf Coast ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks, or Pacific Coast ticks. But come the fall and winter months, some of these tick species become inactive for a period of time (diapause) until the warmer temperatures of spring return. However, those that do remain are no less dangerous than the warmer weather ticks they took the place of in how very sick they can make you. These cold-weather ticks include the well-known deer tick if you live in the eastern two thirds of the country, and the brown dog tick, western blacklegged tick, or Pacific Coast tick if you live in the western third of the country. The only upside to this seemingly never-ending tick dilemma is that these remaining cold-weather ticks are usually the adults, and because they are bigger (about the size of a sesame seed) than the immature stages of ticks, they are somewhat more easily detected when crawling on you. The downside is, that because these adult ticks are older than the immature tick stages, they are also more likely to be carrying disease organisms in their bodies that they can pass on to you with their bite.

ENJOYING THE GREAT OUTDOORS—A CATCH-22

So how do you enjoy the great outdoors, whether as a participant or as a spectator in a recreational activity, when the reality is that when outside you have to be continually on your guard against ticks. You are likely to find ticks in substantial numbers in the woods, in leaf litter, at the transition edge (ecotone) of the woods with grassy, brush and garden areas, on and along stone walls, in brush and leaf piles, on tree stumps and logs, along hiking and walking trails, golf courses (especially in the rough), in dog parks, and high shrub and grass areas. Considering where ticks can be found, what common outdoor fall and winter activities can be assumed high-risk for tick bites? Unfortunately for us, these activities are pretty varied and can include such pursuits as yard cleanup and end-of-season gardening, raking leaves, jumping in leaf piles, playing in your own backyard, participating in sporting events like soccer and football, watching sporting events from the sidelines, picnicking in the park, camping, golfing, hunting, hiking, pumpkin picking, Christmas tree cutting, etc. Avoiding these hidden dangers is key to preventing getting bitten by a tick and becoming infected with a tick-borne disease. But if you cannot avoid these risky tick infested areas, there are certain prevention measures you can take to better protect yourself and your family.

PREVENTION MEASURES TO EVADE TICK BITES

When outdoors, it is recommended that you wear tick repellent clothing. The clothing should be treated with permethrin, an insecticide that can be purchased from most large sporting goods stores. Permethrin repels and kills ticks and has been approved by the EPA as safe for use on clothing apparel worn by both adults and children. You can treat your own clothing and footwear, or purchase pre-treated clothing with the proprietary Insect Shield label from suppliers such as: REI, LLBean, ExOfficio, Orvis, etc. Once per month you should also spray outdoor shoes, athletic gear, tennis bags, back packs, camping gear (anything that could end up on the ground outside) with permethrin to keep the ticks away. Wearing an EPA-approved insect repellent on exposed skin parts will also provide added protection, but by itself, does not work as effectively as tick repellent clothing At the end of the outdoor activity or certainly by the end of the day, you should conduct full body tick checks of yourself and family members who go outside. Be sure to check some of those places you are more likely to find ticks – those more moist parts of your body between your toes, behind your knees, in the navel, groin area, on your back, under your arms, back of neck, behind and in your ears, within body or neck skin folds, or on your scalp. You can never check too often, as ticks can be very hard to find. And if you do find a tick attached to you, safely remove it and seek the advice of your health care giver regarding treatment options as soon as possible. Time is of the essence. Save the tick, dead or alive and place it in a zip-lock bag. Different types of ticks carry different disease organisms, and there are labs in this country where the tick can be mailed which will identify the tick for you and test it to see if it is carrying pathogens which you may have been infected with. If you follow these recommendations and use good common sense when engaging in outdoor fall and winter activities, you can sidestep these hidden tick dangers and avoid becoming sick with very serious diseases such as Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.

Think Twice About Those Fall Activities by Bob Oley

Once again it is fall when we look forward with eager anticipation to those outside activities that take up our weekends, whether it is raking leaves in our own backyard, watching our children play soccer, or taking hikes with our families.  Yet, if a very small but deadly tick has its way, you or your children may soon be spending more of your free time indoors rather than outdoors, too sick to care much about anything other than trying to regain the otherwise healthy lifestyle you once enjoyed.

Ticks are not just warm weather pests anymore, to be vigilant about in the spring and summer, but are now a yearly phenomenon.  And this time of year, as the leaves fall off the trees, you are most likely to encounter the adult deer tick waiting patiently for you to walk by while hoping to get its next blood meal from you.

Should that tick be infected with disease pathogens, those same infectious agents can be transferred to you and your children.  These disease organisms can make you very sick with a variety of possible infections including the all too familiar Lyme disease, as well as other equally frightening but lesser known diseases such as babesiosis, anaplasmosis, bartonellosis, mycoplasma, Powassan virus, and Borrelia miyamotoi (so new there is not yet a name for this Lyme like disease).

WHERE TICKS CAN BE FOUND

Ticks generally need two elements to survive – a high humidity environment and a host to feed on.  Without both of these, a tick just cannot survive.  Consequently, you are likely to find ticks in great abundance in the woods, in leaf litter, at the transition edge of the woods and garden areas (ecotone), on and along stone walls, in brush and leaf piles, on tree stumps and logs, along hiking and walking trails, in dog parks, and high shrub and grass areas.  These are all high humidity areas where ticks have access to the hosts they feed on including mammals, birds, lizards, and most regrettably us.

 

High risk activities for getting bitten by a tick include raking leaves, viewing and playing sports such as soccer and golf, hiking, gardening, yard work, playing in one’s yard, school recess and field trips, and just about any activity that places you in the tick’s domain.

WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT THIS THREAT

When you or your children are outdoors where there are likely to be ticks, it is strongly recommended that you wear tick repellent clothing. The clothing should be treated with permethrin, an insecticide which repels and kills ticks and which has been approved by the EPA as safe for use on clothing apparel worn by both adults and children.  You can treat your own clothing and footwear, or purchase pre-treated clothing with the proprietary Insect Shield label from suppliers such as: REI, LLBean, ExOfficio, Orvis, etc.  Once per month you should also spray outdoor shoes, athletic gear, tennis bags, back packs, camping gear (anything that could end up on the ground outside) with permethrin to keep the ticks away. Wearing an EPA-approved insect repellent on exposed skin parts will also provide added protection, but by itself, does not work as effectively as tick repellent clothing

Some simple prevention measures which are highly recommended for you and your family to follow when outside include:

  1. Avoid areas where there are ticks to the maximum extent possible.  This is much easier said than done, but cannot be stressed enough.
  2. Wear clothing that is treated with permethrin.  This is one of the easiest things to do with big prevention payoffs.  Also, you should spray your outside shoe wear, backpacks, etc. with permethrin once per month.
  3. If you do not choose to treat your own clothing with permethrin (good for 6 washings), send it to be treated at the Insect Shield facility in North Carolina.  It will come back, looking the same as you sent it, but with the permethrin protection bonded to the fabric and good for more than 70 washings.
  4. Apply a tick repellent on your exposed skin.  The tick repellent must say on the container that it repels ticks and for how long.  You can buy insect repellents with chemicals such as IR3535, Picaridin, and DEET in them; or if you prefer using organics, try essential oils like Lemon Eucalyptus Oil and Cedar Oil.
  5. Keep your outside clothes outside your home.  There can be ticks on the clothing from outdoor activities.  As soon as you come in from outdoors, put your clothes in a separate hamper in the mudroom or garage if possible.  Then as soon as you can, put the clothes in the clothes dryer on high heat for 20 to 30 minutes.  The dry heat will effectively kill any ticks that may be on them.
  6. Conduct full body tick checks of family members who go outside, both when they return indoors as well as at night before they go to bed.  Be sure to check some of the areas you are more likely to find ticks – between your toes, behind your knees, in the navel, groin area, on your back, in the armpit, back of neck, behind your ears, or on your head. You can never check too often, as ticks can be very hard to find.

Choosing the Right Tick Repellent for Your Skin by Bob Oley

Choosing just the right tick repellent for use on one’s skin to prevent getting bitten by a tick is a task not to be taken lightly.  Your health, and that of your family members, depends on it.  All tick repellents are not created equal; there are very important differences between them.  Some are made from organic compounds and contain essential oils, while others are made from synthetic chemicals. Some work for a few hours, while others work for longer periods of time. Whichever repellent you do decide on, you want to be sure it is repelling ticks for the allotted time you have set aside for the outdoor activity.

How Do Tick Repellents Work

Tick repellents applied to exposed skin, whether in liquid, cream or aerosol form, all work pretty much the same way.  The skin is the delivery system for the tick repellent.  Once the repellent is applied to the skin, the warmth of the skin and the temperature of the air cause the repellent to evaporate.  As it evaporates, it releases a vapor close to the skin’s surface that is repulsive to ticks, causing them to want to steer clear of it.  A skin repellents does not kill ticks, only repels them.  And once it is fully evaporated from your skin, it is no longer effective.  So it is essential to know how many hours the repellent is rated to effectively repel ticks before it has to be reapplied.  This information should be provided on the product label, and if not, do not purchase it.

Not All Insect Repellents Repel Ticks

There are numerous repellents on the market today that you can buy to put on your skin to repel anything from mosquitoes, to flies, to ticks.  Contrary to popular belief, a tick is not an insect like a mosquito or an ant, but an arachnid similar in anatomy to spiders and mites.  So what repellents may work to repel insects like mosquitoes will not necessarily work to repel ticks, no matter how much you apply to your skin.

In 2008 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), came out with a list of four ingredients in tick repellents that they determined were effective against ticks.  Those ingredients, which they recommended equally, included the three synthetic chemicals DEET, Picaridin, and IR3535 and the organic compound, Lemon Eucalyptus Oil.  If any of these ingredients are in your tick repellent, you can feel reasonably confident the repellent will work to repel ticks.  To be sure, check the product label, which must state that it repels ticks.  If it does not, choose another product that does.

A great source of information on tick repellents is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The EPA publishes a list of mosquito and tick repellents on their website, http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/, which repellents they have reviewed for safety and efficacy.  The listing breaks the repellents down by product name, hourly protection time, active ingredient, company name, and EPA registration number.  Once the EPA has reviewed and signed off on a particular repellent, they will give it a registration number, which is another important piece of information you should look for on the product label.  All repellents containing chemicals have to be registered with the EPA and tested for safety and efficacy, but not all repellents containing natural products come under this same requirement.  So be careful in picking out the repellent you will be applying to your skin, and always look for that EPA registration number.

What About Homemade Natural Repellents

Using a tick repellent you make yourself from essential plant oils known to repel ticks, while somewhat appealing to the more adventuresome, is an endeavor you have to be very careful about.  There is very little published information available on the efficacy of these plant-based oils in repelling ticks, which is one of the reasons the CDC only recommended Lemon Eucalyptus Oil from the many possible plant essential oils.  Some of the more common plants and their essential oils known to repel ticks include lavender, rosemary, peppermint, citronella, sage, garlic, cedar, and lemon eucalyptus.  So if you are inclined to make your own repellent as some are, you need to ascertain from your own experience with it, how well it repels ticks, and for how many hours, before you put your health and that of your family at risk.

Safety Concerns With Tick Repellents

As with any substances applied to the skin, you have to be careful how you use it.  Young children should not be allowed to put tick repellent directly on their skin; a grown-up should apply it.  Never put tick repellents on the hands of children so they do not accidentally get it in their eyes or ingest it.  Only apply tick repellent to exposed skin and not underneath clothing.  A health care provider should be consulted prior to using any type of tick repellent on pregnant women or infants.  And if you cannot use a tick repellent when outside, you should try to avoid those areas known to harbor ticks.

Product direction on a repellent’s proper application should be followed without using more than is absolutely called for.  Once the outdoor activity is concluded, it is always recommended to thoroughly wash those areas where the repellent was applied.  And most importantly, conduct a thorough tick check of your body.

So by all means take advantage of the outdoors, whether it is in enjoying your own backyard, or golfing, hunting, hiking, playing sports, or the like.  But be forewarned that where there are ticks, and that seems to be pretty much everywhere these days, there is the very real possibility of getting bitten by a tick, and becoming infected with one or more tick-borne diseases. Any one of these diseases can make you and your family members very sick, and they can be very difficult to treat.  Taking precautions like wearing tick repellent on your skin is one of several measures available to you to reduce the chances of getting bitten by a tick.

Preventing TBDs will Make You a Happy Camper by Bob Oley

Summer camp season has arrived, and you have probably packed your children for some memorable weeks away from home. Weeks spent in nature though will also carry risks, and you have no doubt done everything you can to make sure your kids are prepared. Unfortunately, there is a tiny but serious threat that you may not be fully-informed of: the deer tick.

Deer ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of a variety of hosts, including people. Children are especially at risk due to their predilection for playing in grassy or forested areas, particularly during the summer, a peak-time for deer tick activity.

One bite from a minute deer tick can infect you or your child with Lyme disease and other potentially debilitating tick-borne diseases including Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Bartonellosis, Mycoplasma, tick paralysis, and viruses.

Deer ticks, which can be no larger than a poppy seed during their nymphal stages, seek hosts by a behavior called “questing.” They do not jump or fly. Questing ticks perch on the stems of grass or small bushes, or on the edges of leaf litter or other vegetation, with their front legs extended. When a person’s body or clothing comes in contact with the extended legs of the tick, they will quickly grab on and search for a suitable place to bite, particularly around the legs, bottom, lower back, neck and scalp. Nymphal deer ticks will remain attached for several days until they become fully engorged with your blood and then drop off. Many people will never even notice that they were bitten.

Lyme and other tick-borne diseases can be treated most effectively in their earliest stages, so regular tick-checks at your child’s camp are key to early detection. If your children or camp supervisors discover a tick attached to them, the camp doctor/nurse should remove the tick using pointed tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. They should pull the tick straight out, taking care not to twist or squish it, and wash the bite site and apply an antiseptic.

Biting deer ticks will not infect someone with Lyme disease or one of the other tick-borne diseases unless the tick itself is infected. If at all possible, any tick that is pulled off of your child’s body should be sent to a tick testing lab for a determination as to whether or not it is infected with any disease organisms. After following the steps listed above, campers should contact their parents, who should seek the assistance of their family health care provider for advice on initiating prophylactic treatment. Time is of the essence and removing ticks promptly, and taking the correct precautionary measures for medical support and treatment immediately, can prevent the transmission of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

There are also preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of being bitten. If your children are at camp in forested or other outdoor environments, it is strongly recommended that you pack tick repellent clothing for them. You should provide four or five sets of treated clothing for them to take to camp. The clothing should be treated with permethrin, an insecticide which repels and kills ticks, and which has been approved by the EPA for use on clothing. You can treat your own clothing and footwear with permethrin spray (good for about five washings), or purchase pre-treated clothing (good for up to 70 washings) by brands such as Insect Shield, ExOfficio’s BugsAway or ElimiTick from retailers like L.L. Bean and Eastern Mountain Sports. Wearing an EPA-approved insect repellent on exposed skin parts will also provide added protection, but by itself, does not work nearly as effectively as tick repellent clothing.

To further safeguard against Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, campers should constantly monitor their own state of health. If they find they are developing flu-like or other unusual symptoms at camp, they should promptly seek assistance from the camp doctor/nurse. Anyone who wishes to seek medical help for Lyme or tick-borne disease is encouraged to contact a Lyme-literate doctor.

Lyme Disease, Deer Ticks and Campers by Bob Oley

Summer camp is right around the corner, and that means there are lots of details to be taken care of before your children head off to camp. One important detail that often escapes parents’ notice is providing their children with the necessary protection against tick bites, particularly deer ticks, during their stay at camp. Deer ticks are cesspools of disease, and they put your children at risk for Lyme disease as well as other potentially debilitating diseases such as babesiosis, anaplasmosis, bartonella, tularemia and mycoplasma.

LITTLE BUG, BIG PROBLEMS

How can such a small bug cause such big problems for campers? Ticks are parasites that survive by feeding on the blood of hosts such as mice, chipmunks, birds, squirrels, rabbits and deer. Regrettably, they also feed on your children. While deer ticks are active year round, their peak season of activity begins in May and runs through September. During this time, the nymphal deer tick (about as small as a poppy seed) actively seeks a host, and its bite poses the greatest risk of infecting campers with Lyme disease and other tick-borne co-infections.

Deer ticks require a humid environment to survive and can be found anywhere their hosts live. Thus they can be encountered in a variety of settings including lawns, playing fields, woodlands, along woodland trails, as well as in leaf litter and brush piles. They can also be found near old stone walls, woodpiles, tree stumps and fallen logs, anywhere their hosts make their nests. They have even been found on picnic tables and benches. As alarming as it may sound, deer ticks are out there, just hiding in wait for your unsuspecting children.

PERSONAL PROTECTION

When your children are at camp, it is strongly recommended that they wear tick repellent clothing. Other than complete avoidance of tick-infested areas, this one protective measure will do more good to protect your children from tick bites than any other. The clothing should be treated with permethrin, an insecticide which repels and kills ticks and which has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe for use on clothing worn by children. As an added benefit, this clothing will also repel mosquitoes and other bothersome insects.

In addition, wearing an EPA-approved insect repellent on exposed skin parts will provide added protection, but should be used in conjunction with tick repellent clothing. The tick repellent you choose for your skin should say on the container that it repels ticks and for how long it does so.

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

Some simple preventative measures, which are highly recommended for you and your children, include:

  1. Educate your children about ticks, including: the areas they as campers should try to avoid, the tick repellent clothes they should wear, and how to properly use tick repellents on exposed skin. Educating them about ticks is well worth the effort and essential in keeping them safe.
  2. Find out whether the summer camps your children are attending are aware of the dangers posed by ticks and whether they have a tick management program in place to protect campers from ticks. If they do not, it should be cause for concern. As a matter of course, camps should also notify children’s parents immediately when an embedded tick is found on one of their campers, as prompt medical treatment may be advisable.
  3. When doing outside camping activities, your children should wear clothing (T-shirts, sweat shirts, shorts, pants, socks) that is treated with permethrin. This is one of the easiest things to do, and it has big prevention payoffs. You can treat your own children’s clothing (good for 6 washings) or purchase pre-treated clothing (good for 70 washings) with the proprietary Insect Shield label from suppliers such as: REI, LLBean, ExOfficio, Orvis, etc.
  4. If you do not choose to treat your children’s clothing with permethrin, you can send their clothes to be treated at the Insect Shield facility in North Carolina. Clothing will come back looking the same as you sent it but with the permethrin protection bonded to the fabric and good for 70 or more washings. Visit the Insect Shield website, www.insectshield.com, for directions on how this can be easily accomplished.
  5. Spray outdoor shoes (sneakers, sandals, hiking boots, etc.), athletic gear, tennis bags, back packs, camping gear, beach towels (anything that could end up on the ground outside) with permethrin to keep ticks away. This protection will last for about 30 to 40 days when it will start to lose its effectiveness due to exposure to the elements.
  6. Make sure campers wear tick repellent on their exposed skin. The repellent must say on the container that it repels ticks. You can buy insect repellents with synthetic chemicals such as IR3535, Picaridin, and DEET, all of which have been approved by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as effective against ticks. If you prefer using organics, you can try essential oils like Lemon Eucalyptus Oil and Cedar Oil. Most of these tick repellents will work for 4 to 6 hours, so they may need to be applied a couple of times per day depending on what outdoor camp activities are taking place.
  7. Teach children how to properly apply tick repellent. If children are younger than 10 years old, you may want them to seek the help of camp counselors in applying it.
  8. If your children attend a day camp, keep their outside clothes outside your home, as ticks can be on clothing from outdoor activities. When your children come home at the end of the camp day, put their clothes in a separate hamper in the mud room or garage if possible. As soon as you can, put their clothes in the clothes dryer on high heat for 20 to 30 minutes. The dry heat will effectively kill any ticks that may be on them.
  9. Educate your children on how to conduct body checks for ticks following outside activities, as well as at night before they go to bed. Ticks like to attach around moist areas of the body, and can often be found between the toes, behind the knees, in the navel and groin areas, armpits, back of neck, skin creases, and hair. Your children can never check themselves too often for ticks, as they can be very hard to find.

When children arrive at camp, you want them to be able to enjoy themselves. By taking these personal protective and preventive measures for your children, you can ensure their camp experience is incredible. Don’t be hasty; your children’s health may depend on it. Take the time to follow through on these sensible recommendations. Educate your children about ticks and tick-borne diseases so when they do get to camp, they will be fully prepared for the ticks, which will surely be lying in wait for them.