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Tick Season: Tips To Keep You And Your Kids Tick-Free

Dangerous tick.
Learn some quick tick tips for a safe warm season. André Karwath

Warm weather, blue skies, and longer nights could only mean one thing - the spring season is upon us and so are ticks.

The little buggers are off to a jump start and are prepared to come out in great numbers. 70-degree temperatures invite the unwanted guests to hatch their eggs sooner since they are already on the ground.

Ticks rank second to mosquitos as prime carriers of human diseases in the world and rank number one as the primary vectors of infectious diseases in North America, says Mayo Clinic Medical Laboratories. These bloodsucking external parasites feast especially on kids and transmit Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease in America.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the confirmed number of Lyme disease cases ranged from a low of 19,804 in 2004 to a high of 29,959 in 2009 with a strong presence in five- to nine-year-old boys. These pesky skin crawlers are commonly found in Maryland, Maine, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, with a small concentration in northern California.

Ticked off about ticks? Follow these quick tick tips to increase surveillance and prevention for you and your kids while you enjoy the outdoors this season.

1.  Tick prevention begins at home.

Keep your property tick-safe through regular removal of leaf litter, clearing tall grasses and bushes, and placing wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks away, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tick nymphs are the most common way to infect humans and can be found in leaf litter on the ground. For your kids' safety, be sure to keep play areas and playground equipment away from vegetation.

A chemical control agent can be applied by you or a professional pest control expert to significantly reduce the number of ticks. CDC reports the reduction of ticks can range from 68 to 100 percent with just one use of acaricide.

2. Examine your pets.

Consult a veterinarian to protect your pets from fleas and ticks to prevent them from entering your home. If pesticide products are to be used, make sure you take extra precaution in the presence of those who are aged, medicated, pregnant, or pets that are nursing. The pesticide products should contain an animal-specified product label like, "For dogs only" or "For cats only" like Parastar Plus for dogs.  

Refer to Pets and Diseases: 5 Ways Your Pet Could Make You Sick to learn about others ways you can prevent Lyme Disease in your pets.

3. Monitor your surroundings.

If you like to go on the occasional hike during the warmer months of the year, the Department of Public Health advises hikers to stay on the middle of the trails. Areas that have untidy grass and bushes are hosting sites for ticks. The little buggers are found on the edge of wooded areas, city parks and gardens, and undeveloped areas.

Grassy or wooded areas are popular among ticks and can easily stick onto clothing and skin. In order for a tick to infect a person, it needs to be attached to you (skin, clothing) for a few hours to several days. Therefore, it is imperative to check for ticks upon your return from outside. Key places to look for ticks are hair, body folds, ears, underarms, and your back. Be sure to wash your clothes immediately.

Kirby Stafford, entomologist and author of The Tick Management Handbook, advises to take a shower within two hours of being outdoors. A helpful tip she shares is to tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour, a foolproof method to kill any ticks that may have made its way onto your clothing.

4. Safely repel ticks.

Repellents that contain DEET are helpful to keep ticks away. It is important to apply ONLY to clothing, socks, shoes and backpacks. DEET, a pesticide that has toxic chemicals, can have detrimental effects on the human nervous system. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises consumers to wash off it off your skin (if you opt to use it this way) as soon as you return indoors, and to not breathe nor spray it directly on your face.

5. Dress in light-colored clothing.  

Choosing to wear light-colored clothes will help you spot a dark tick crawling on you before it stealthily makes its way on to your skin. The more exposed your skin is the more vulnerable you are to this bug bite. Stop Ticks On People, a coalition in partnership with Families First New York, Inc. suggests wearing long sleeves tucked into the waistband and long pants tucked into socks for an upper hand against these pesky skin crawlers.  

Closed-toe shoes are optimal to tuck your pant legs into your socks. If you want to take it one step further, you can wrap duct tape around your ankles and over the top of your socks if you plan to go on a nature walk. It could be a fashion faux pas but it's also must-do for your health.

For those that are more fashion-conscious, there is a sporty, outdoor look available for you. Ex-Officio has a clothing line that contains built-in tick protection with permethrin, a synthetic chemical used in insect repellent that lasts approximately 70 washes.

Enjoy the warmer months of the year with you and your children by following these tips that will keep you tick-free.

 

 

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