Ticks & Lyme Disease: 5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Family From Ticks by Dr. Thomas Mather
Something we rarely think about prior to heading out on a trip are bugs. Unfortunately, it is not just travels to the far reaches of the globe that can put us into contact with dangerous insects – they can torment us on weekend getaways and even in our own backyards.
May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, the start of summer travel season and a good time to learn about ticks. There are more ticks in more places than ever before. Lyme disease has now become one of the fastest growing epidemics to date. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the number of cases in the U.S. alone to be about 300,000 cases a year. Tick encounter rates are soaring and it is time to get tick savvy to avoid bites and lessen the risk of Lyme disease.
People's tick encounter risk stays high as outdoor activities increase in July. Our field surveys are indicating that nymph-stage blacklegged ticks loaded with Lyme disease are at near record levels in Rhode Island so far this spring. Here are tips to help keep your family safe from ticks:
- The Yard: Ticks are not out in the middle of your lawn, they live where yards border wooded areas, or anywhere it is shaded and there are leaves with high humidity. Place a layer of wood chips between your grass yard and the woods edge. Ticks are attracted to the wood chips because of the shade and moisture it provides.
- Tick Checks: Do periodic tick checks (on yourself, children and pets) and carefully remove any found. (Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to find.)
- Identifying/Avoiding Tick Habitats: Shady, wooded and weedy edges are favorite spots for ticks to hang out. Avoiding tick habitats can be difficult but there are plenty of ways – such as always walking in the middle of maintained trails – to limit tick encounters. When on a hike, bike or walk try to remain in the center of a trail in order to minimize your exposure. Remember: ticks cannot fly, they crawl up. Avoid sitting directly on the ground, woodpiles or fallen logs – areas where ticks love to live.
- Personal Protection: Wear tick repellent clothing. Insect Shield Repellent Apparel is EPA registered to repel ticks (as well as a variety of other pesky and potentially dangerous insects.) The repellency is odorless, invisible and long-lasting. Insect Shield apparel is available for adults, kids and even your dog!
- Remove Ticks Safely: To safely remove attached ticks, first disinfect the area with an alcohol swab. Next, using a pointy tweezer, grab the tick "head" as close to the skin as possible and simply pull straight out. Remember to disinfect the bite site again after pulling the tick out.
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