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Because the winter and spring seasons were more wet than usual, particularly in the eastern and midwestern areas of the country, we can expect to see more ticks this summer — and with more ticks comes a higher risk of developing Lyme disease or other tick-related illnesses.
As discussed in our last blog post, vector-borne diseases have been on the rise the past several years. When looking specifically at Lyme disease, 95% of all reported cases in 2015 originated in 14 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. Notice that all but two are along the East Coast, where such diseases are most prevalent.
There are many different types of ticks around the world, although not all bite humans. According to the CDC, a few of the most common biting ticks in North America are the brown dog tick, the American dog tick and the black-legged (deer) tick. The latter actually transmits the most diseases, including Lyme disease.
With greater risk of bites and disease this year, how can you keep your home and family safe this summer? A great place to start is your own backyard (and front yard) — so here are some ways to tick-proof your property:
- Use a pesticide. If you’re comfortable with this option, a good quality pesticide can help decrease the number of ticks around your house. As long as the practice is approved by local officials (we recommend checking first), you’ll be well on your way.
- Try tick tubes. These tubes take advantage of mice or chipmunks to kill ticks for you. The tubes are filled with cotton balls laced with permethrin, a substance that’s harmless to animals like mice but lethal for ticks; it’s best to place them just past your yard line to cover roughly ten feet of ground each.
- Prevent hiding places. Because ticks can hide in tall grass and under leaves or yard debris, it’s important to cut your grass regularly and keep your yard tidy and well-kept.
- Discourage movement. Ticks can attach to animals like deer and stray dogs and then make their way into your yard, so create a barrier: Something like a fence, gravel divider, wood chip barrier or wood pile will help deter ticks from getting in.
- Keep activity away from edges. If your property is next to the woods or by an area with plenty of brush and tall grass, arrange your outdoor furniture, play sets and other points of activity so they’re far from the property edges where ticks may be found.
- Add plants that ticks don’t like. Plants such as American Beautyberry bushes, chrysanthemums, lavender and sage all have properties that don’t appeal to ticks, so incorporating them into your landscape will keep more pests away.
- Make your yard bird-friendly. Some birds eat ticks, so consider adding a birdfeeder with seed to encourage birds to visit your yard and keep ticks at bay. Chickens can also help accomplish the same result.
Of course, going beyond your yard to protect yourself and your family is a must as well. When it comes to pets, ask your veterinarian about preventative treatments, especially if your pets spend a lot of time outdoors. Regardless, be sure to check them thoroughly each time they come inside and safely remove any ticks you see.
When it comes to protecting you, consider spraying your clothing with permethrin when you plan to be in wooded areas, stay in the center of trails when hiking and always wear bug spray. Our tick repellent has been specially formulated to repel the deer tick and thus help prevent Lyme disease.
Like you do with your pets, it’s also crucial to check yourself and family members carefully. The following are the best places to check after coming inside: in and around the hair, in and around the ears, under the arms, inside the belly button, between the legs and behind the knees. If in doubt, take a shower and wash your clothes to ensure ticks don’t hang around. Taking a shower within two hours of tick exposure actually lowers the risk of a tick-borne illness significantly.
If you’re planning to spend time in your yard this summer, incorporate the above strategies to prevent those you love from getting bit or potentially affected by disease.