I remember my distress when both of my children came home from camp one year with ticks. I know from friends and colleagues who have contracted diseases carried by ticks, such as Lyme disease, that Lyme disease can be a life-changing, harrowing experience — from fevers to joint-pain and numbness to worsening symptoms. Luckily, my own children were spared.
Ticks are a growing problem across much of the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preliminary results from three different evaluation methods suggest that the number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the United States is around 300,000. With warmer weather upon us, we’re all gearing up for more time in the great outdoors.
It’s important for each of us to protect ourselves with the knowledge of how to prevent ticks. EPA recommends the use of the following Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices to manage ticks, thereby reducing the risk of tick-borne diseases:
What can you do to protect yourself?
- Wear clothing that keeps ticks from reaching your skin, such as long pants, long-sleeved shirt, hat, gloves, and boots. Cover boot lacings with duct tape.
- Apply an insect repellent that’s labeled to repel ticks. Check out Why Read Labels first.
- Try to avoid tick-friendly areas, such as tall grass and heavy vegetation.
- After being outdoors, shower immediately using a washcloth.
- Check yourself, your children and pets daily for ticks. Juvenile ticks can be as small as a poppy seed!
- More information on ticks and tick IPM can be found at www.epa.gov/pestwise/ticks and http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/.
You can also reduce the number of ticks on your property by:
- Removing leaf litter, brush, and weeds at the edge of the lawn.
- Keeping grass mowed shorter than 3”.
- Creating a nine foot buffer zone on trails frequented by deer.
- Trying to keep deer and other animals that carry ticks from areas frequented by people. See Tick Distribution and Creating a Tick Safe Zone in the Residential Landscape, page 36: http://www.ct.gov/caes/lib/caes/documents/special_features/tickhandbook.pdf
Where can ticks be found?
- Different tick species can be found in different parts of the United States. Learn more about the geographic distribution of tick species.
- Ticks can be in your backyard, in soccer fields, along trails, parks, and other outdoor areas.
- Ticks can also be carried into your home by your pet.
- CDC has reported seven tick species in the United States with 11 reported pathogens that have the potential to cause tick-borne disease. There are approximately 80 tick species in the United States.
EPA is always working to make sure that the registered insect and tick repellents on the market are effective and safe when used as directed. But please do your part as well. Let’s keep springtime healthy by protecting yourself, your children and pets against ticks and tick-borne diseases.
I wish you a happy spring season, and lots of safe, fun time exploring nature and the outdoors.