Ticks are an unavoidable nuisance in the United States. They live in nearly every state, and bites happen throughout the year when the temperature is above freezing. Unfortunately, tick bites can cause Lyme disease. This potentially debilitating illness is often difficult to diagnose and sometimes even more challenging to treat.
But there are ways to keep you and your family protected from bites. If you want to know how to prevent Lyme disease, keep reading.
First, What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the black-legged tick. It causes a range of symptoms, but most patients report feeling extreme fatigue and bad headaches. Fever and rashes are also common. In some instances, the patient may develop more chronic conditions of the heart, bones, or nervous system. Antibiotics can treat and cure Lyme disease, but it may take several courses and must be started soon after the disease is contracted. Some people will continue to experience symptoms long-term.
How do you get Lyme disease? Black-legged ticks, sometimes called deer ticks, infect a host after a prolonged bite. The bacteria transmits from the tick’s mouth into the victim’s bloodstream. While black-legged ticks can carry the bacteria, not all of them do. And a short bite (where the tick is detected and removed only a few hours after being attached) is not likely to cause an infection. The risk of catching Lyme disease is highest if the tick remains attached to its host for over 36 hours.
Tips for How to Avoid Lyme Disease
Even though it’s impossible to eradicate all ticks in the world, you can follow these tick tips and tricks to avoid catching Lyme disease.
Here are the easiest ways to prevent bites when you head outdoors:
- Dress for the Occasion
Ticks only bite bare skin—they can’t reach you through layers of clothing. When heading outdoors, cover up as much skin as possible. Even in the middle of the summer, it’s best to wear long sleeves and full hiking pants. Tuck in your shirt and pull your socks over your pant legs to close any gaps. Hiking boots are better than sneakers, and you should always avoid sandals.
Many experts recommend wearing light-colored clothing. The idea is that if a tick does crawl on you, it’s easier to see it against a brighter background. However, ticks dislike dark colors and are more attracted to light hues.
- Spray from Head to Toe
Over-the-counter insect repellents are a great way to keep ticks away. Ticks don’t like products that contain DEET or Picaridin. However, you shouldn’t spray DEET on children. Instead, you can try a natural repellent such as sprays that include citronella or peppermint essential oils. Apply a generous coating on all exposed skin and clothing. Reapply as needed.
- Don’t Venture into the Woods
Deer ticks love hiding in wooded environments, and their orange-brown bodies provide them with the perfect camouflage. Avoid sitting on fallen branches, woodpiles, or even the ground. Ticks don’t like sunlight, so staying on the trail is better than heading into the dark, cold woods.
- Perform a Thorough “Tick Check”
When returning indoors, check your clothing and body for ticks. If possible, have someone else lend a hand, and inspect all children for ticks. Ticks like to hide, and since they’re so small—especially early in the season before they grow to full size, you may miss them. You will definitely feel an adult-sized tick if you come across it with your fingers.
Be sure to inspect these common hiding spots:
- Your hairline and scalp
- Between fingers and toes
- Behind your ears
- In your armpits
- Near the groin
Remove your clothes as soon as possible after returning home and toss them into the washer. Hot water will eliminate any ticks in your clothes that may not have had a chance to attach themselves to your skin. And if you do find a tick, carefully remove it with tweezers.
Worried About Ticks in Your Backyard?
There may be ticks living in your lawn, but you don’t want to find out the hard way. Lyme disease prevention always begins at home. Another great way to avoid Lyme disease is to have Mosquito Joe set up a spray-treatment barrier in your yard. This treatment works on fleas and mosquitoes, too!