Summer safety: Preventing tick-related illnesses


happy kids running in the woods

Sorry to put a damper on your summer, but we’re in prime tick season right now. If you like spending time in the great outdoors, there are some steps you should take to stay safe from tick-related illnesses, which can be very serious.

Disease carrying ticks are found in all 50 states. In northern and New England states with a high deer population, black-legged ticks — also known as deer ticks — are a great menace because they can transmit Lyme disease.  But don’t be fooled into thinking that the risk of Lyme Disease is confined to the North – deer ticks can be found in all states and as weather patterns shift, tick populations are shifting, too. In the south, dog ticks and Gulf Coast ticks that carry Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and Lone Star ticks that cause meat allergies are more common. (see Ticks and Diseases in Florida)

Wherever you live, some of the most important steps in preventing tick-related diseases are knowing where and when tick encounters are most likely to happen, knowing how to dress to prevent ticks and checking yourself, your kids and your pets after outdoor activities to remove any ticks. What type of activities? Gardening, hiking, golfing, camping, walking the dog, playing in the yard … any outdoor activities, particularly those that occur in or near wooded areas.

One resource for tips on preventing tick related problems is from the University of Rhode Island. Check out the site called the TickEncounter Resource Center, with lots of great information on tick identification and removal, as well as tips for your protection, for treating your yard, and protecting your pets. It has a lot of information about the various types of ticks and diseases that they carry.

One of their primary recommendations for preventing ticks is dressing appropriately. They offer this reminder:

“What you wear when working or playing could reduce your chances of tick bites. Remember: Ticks start LOW and crawl UP; ticks do not jump, fly or drop from trees, they are down on the ground and crawl up until they find a good spot to attach. Tucking pant legs into socks is a good way to keep ticks on the outside where they may be seen or get brushed off.”

Another important thing is to make sure that after outdoor activities, you do a thorough tick check –if you can catch a tick and remove it early you can prevent disease because according to the CDC, it generally takes 36-48 hours of attachment before disease is spread.  The CDC suggests using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Ticks are great at hiding, they like warm, moist areas of the body such as the scalp, armpits and groin. Their bit is painless. The CDC says to check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks.

illustration on what body parts to check for ticks

 

Also, be sure to check your pets and your clothes and gear. The CDC says:

Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.

 

The Center by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers more tick resources, including prevention, information on tick removal information and more as well as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever resources.

For local alerts on ticks and other season health issues, check your state health department. Many states have created specific tick-related resources such as the ones we cite above from Florida and Rhode Island. These can be found by simply entering “ticks + your state” name in Google.