For many of us, summer is the season to enjoy the outdoors. You may love to spend time lazing in the yard or pushing yourself on a new summer hike, but we hope you are always thinking about how you can protect yourselves from ticks and Lyme disease while you are outside. Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the United States and is transmitted by ticks so small they can be hard to notice. So as you enjoy your outdoor time this summer, it’s important that you take precautions to protect yourself from ticks and the many diseases they carry. Here are 5 ways you can protect yourself from Lyme and other tick-borne diseases this summer!
1. Wear the right clothing.
Because ticks are so small and hard to find, it’s important to wear clothes that will empower you to find them easily. Wear light colored clothing so that ticks can be easy to spot. If you are headed on a longer hike, make sure to wear long pants, long sleeves, and closed toed shoes. Even though it’s not the most fashionable, tucking your pants into your socks can also help prevent ticks from making their way into your shoes or between your toes!
2. Use tick-repellant.
You may use bug spray to protect ourselves from mosquitos, but traditional sprays won’t necessarily fend off ticks. Try using an EPA-approved tick repellent (such as DEET or picaridin) on your skin and an insecticide (such as permethrin) on your clothing and shoes before you head outdoors. You can also buy permethrin-treated clothes, or a long-lasting permethrin spray to coat your favorite outdoors pants and shoes. Permethrin clothing is proving to be the most effective tick deterrent, is safer than directly spraying your skin, and lasts for as long as six weeks!
3. The dryer is your friend.
When you get home from a day outside, take of your clothes immediately and put them in the dryer on high heat for 10-15 minutes. This should kill any ticks hiding or attached to your clothing.
4. Protect your pets.
Outdoor dogs and cats are some of the most likely culprits to bring ticks into your home. This can damage their health, but can also damage yours! As the weather gets warmer every year, make sure to treat your pets with a product like Frontline (or any other tick and flea prevention medication) to reduce the risk of infection for them – and for you.
5. Always check for ticks.
Even if you have taken all of the above precautions, always, always, always check for ticks. They like to attach in warm, dark, and moist places on the body – so be thorough in your check! Look between your toes, behind your ears, everywhere on your body. It can be helpful to have a partner check your back or areas that can be harder for you to see. Showering within an hour or two of being outside can help you notice ticks right away, and washing may even remove the ticks that haven’t yet attached. If you have a tendency to forget tick checks, try adding it to your daily bedtime routine.
If you find a tick on your body, remove it immediately using a fine-pointed tweezers or special tick-removal tweezers. By removing the tick as soon as you can, you reduce the chance that you, a family member or pet will get infected.