Enjoy the Outdoors Tick-free!
As temperatures warm up and ticks become more active, how do we protect ourselves and our loved ones and reduce our fear of spending time outdoors? I spend a lot of time talking to people and I hear a great deal of fear and apprehension about spending time outdoors because of the risk of tick contact. People stop spending time outdoors doing the things that they love all because of the tick encounters that they are having.
To that, my question to them is “So, what are you doing to prevent having a tick encounter? Are you wearing repellent on your skin and treating your clothing or wearing pre-treated clothing with permethrin (that kills ticks on contact)?” The answer almost every time is a resounding NO. Ok, so let me get this straight ~ you are terrified of ticks and you are finding ticks on yourself and your pets because you do not use any preventative products to repel them and so you stop spending time outside.
Now, how much sense does that really make? Why are we allowing such a tiny predator to dictate what we can do and where we can do it? We live in such a beautiful state and the outside activities are endless. Trail walks, hunting, fishing, BBQs ~ I could go on and on. But instead, I will drive home the simple five prevention steps that will not only reduce your contact with ticks and the fear factor, but it is guaranteed to get you back outside doing the things that you love.
Five Simple Steps of Prevention
- Skin: Repellents work by masking your scent, making it harder for insects and ticks to find you. There are many options on the market from products containing DEET to natural and organic essential oils. Always read the labels as some are clearly marked “not safe for children or pets”. (Most repellents are under $10).
- Clothing: Wearing white clothing and tucking your shirt into pants and pants into socks does not repel ticks, it only makes them easier to find. Permethrin, a product derived from the chrysanthemum plant, kills ticks on contact, and is FDA approved in over 2500 household products. For those with health or environmental concerns, you can purchase clothing already infused with a heavy concentration such as tops, pants, vests, socks, hats, gloves and blankets (lasts up to 70 washes). (Bottle of Permethrin $10-15, Pre-treated clothing varies in cost).
- Pets: There is no “one size fits all pets” when it comes to prevention. Talk to your vet about what options are available and appropriate for the age, breed and health condition of your pet. Dog Not Gone (a Skowhegan-based company) manufactures dog vests and collars, heavily infused with Permethrin, safeguarding your pet against tick exposure from nose to tail (for up 70 washes).
- Home: We all clean our homes, but did you know that there are cleaning and laundry products containing ingredients such as rosemary, lemongrass, cedarwood and eucalyptus oils that naturally repel ticks! Companies like 7th Generation and Mrs. Meyers contain ingredients that naturally repel unwanted ticks and other insects while doing a great job of cleaning and brightening up our counters, floors and bathrooms. (Cleaning products under $10).
- Yard: From pest control companies to Do-It-Yourself products, you have options from chemical to natural/organic products to protect where you live and play. Free range chickens and guinea hens are another option. Groom your yard. Keep the grass mowed short and leaf-liter to a minimum. Ticks thrive in moist areas. Adding cedarwood oil or Diatomaceous Earth power to your garden beds and borders also reduce tick populations. (Do-It-Yourself less than $20, Pest Control companies vary depending on services).
And when you come in from outdoors, DO YOUR TICK CHECKS! Remove your clothing, toss in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes and then check the following areas: under the arms, in/around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in your hair, between the legs/groin area and around your waistline. Shower products containing rosemary, eucalyptus and tea tree oil repel and wash out any ticks you may have missed while checking your hair.
If you do have a tick encounter, save the tick and have it tested so that you will know for certain if/what you have been exposed to (Maine residents only $15: http://ticks.umaine.edu/ and all others $50: www.tickreport.com).
Paula Jackson Jones is the President of the MLDSE, the Co-Chair of the Access to Care Services and Patient Support subcommittee of the Federal HHS Tick-borne Disease Working Group, the Maine-partner of the national Lyme Disease Association, member of Maine’s CDC Vector-borne Workgroup and active in Maine’s Lyme legislation. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.mldse.org.