Have you been out for a hike or into your garden yet? You probably have! But it’s not too early to protect yourself against those little nasties called ticks.
With such a warm winter behind us, and there’s a good chance the tick population will be significantly larger than we’ve seen in recent years. That’s not a pleasant notion given the fact that the number of tick-borne illnesses have been steadily on the rise. But, have no fear! Below are some pointers and resources that will help keep tick bites under control so you can safely enjoy your time outdoors.
- Start doing tick checks now! No amount of Ben’s Deep Woods can replace the effectiveness of doing a tick check — on yourself, on your partner, on your kids, and on your pets. So, best to make a habit of it. Ticks are guided by temperature, so look twice in areas where warmth accumulates (armpits, groin, hairline, back of the knees, under close-fitting clothes). Experts say it takes about a month to establish a new habit, so put it into your outdoor routine now, and come summer, it will be well ingrained.
- Socks over your pants is totally fashionable. Thanks to the introduction of skinny jeans, it is now officially cool to wear your socks on the outside of your pants when wearing hiking boots. No excuses! One of the best defenses to keep a tick from biting you is to make it difficult for the tick to get to your skin. Keep them on the outside of your clothing and they’re easier to spot too.
- Wear khaki. Or really any light-colored clothing. You’d be amazed how noticeable a small black dot is on tan or white cloth. On this point, the fashion industry has failed us. Can the tick-prevention industry bring back the washed-out denim trend?
- Armor yourself. Are you a daily dog-walker? Or do you take a nightly stroll just to clear your mind? Consider doing these activities in a designated pair of pants. Now, that seems like a funny idea, but if you apply a Permethrin spray to these pants and allow them to dry, those pants will be your tick armor. Please be sure to follow all safety precautions when applying the Permethrin: Do it with gloves on in a well-ventilated (outdoor) place. Once it has absorbed into your pants and dried, the pants are fine to touch barehanded. You are ready for battle!
- Protect your pets. Pets that roam outdoors might otherwise be known as “tick shuttles.” Ticks jump on-board and get a free ride into your house, and potentially onto your furniture. There are multiple brands of flea and tick prevention treatments out there, so ask your vet which will work best for your pet. However, just like with you and your family members, nothing works as well as a tick check on your furry friends!
- Stay in the middle of the trail. Sounds silly because ticks are on the ground, right? No! Ticks can climb, and frequently will get up on low-hanging branches or tall grasses. When you are out for a hike, stay in the middle of the trail for your safety. (BONUS: This is good for limiting erosion on the trail too!)
And if all else fails, studies have found that getting antibiotics within 72 hours (that’s 3 whole days!), Lyme disease can be prevented. Following these precautions will make you less likely to pick up a tick, and find the ones that get on you with ample time to remove them before you need to worry.
Don’t let the ticks get you down–or rather, keep you stuck inside!
By Kat Deely, Community Conservation Manager