Since May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month I thought it would be fitting to share some information and tips on ticks and keeping them away from you and your pets. Ticks are really bad this year. Living in the middle of the woods means having to fight them off of my family and our four dogs almost constantly. Thankfully there are good ways to keep them off of you and your pets. Before I get to that, I want to let you know some important facts about these pesky insects.
Here are ten things you need to know about ticks…
- Ticks crawl up Ticks don’t jump, fly, or drop from trees onto your head and back. If you find one attached there, it most likely latched onto your foot or leg and crawled up over your entire body.
- All ticks (including deer ticks) come in small, medium and large sizes
- Ticks can be active even in the winter That’s right! Deer Ticks in particular are not killed by freezing temperatures, and will be active any winter day that the ground is not snow-covered or frozen.
- Ticks carry disease-causing microbes Tick-transmitted infections are more common these days than in past decades. With explosive increases in deer populations, extending even into semi-urban areas in the eastern and western U.S., the trend is for increasing abundance and geographic spread of deer ticks and Lone Star ticks; and scientists are finding an ever-increasing list of disease-causing microbes transmitted by these ticks: Lyme disease bacteria, Babesia protozoa, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and other rickettsia, even encephalitis-causing viruses, and possibly Bartonella bacteria. Back in the day, tick bites were more of an annoyance but now a bite is much more likely to make you sick.
- Only deer ticks transmit Lyme disease bacteria. The only way to get Lyme disease is by being bitten by a deer tick or one of its “cousins” found around the world.
- For most tick-borne diseases, you have at least 24 hours to find and remove a feeding tick before it transmits an infection Even a quick daily tick check at bath or shower time can be helpful in finding and removing attached ticks before they can transmit an infection. Lyme disease bacteria take at least 24 hours to invade the tick’s saliva.
- Deer tick nymphs look like a poppy seed on your skin And with about 1 out of 4 nymphal deer ticks carrying the Lyme disease spirochete and other nasty germs in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and upper mid-western U.S., it’s important to know what you’re really looking for. They’re easy to miss, their bites are generally painless, and they have a habit of climbing up (under clothing) and biting in hard-to-see places.
- The easiest and safest way to remove a tick is with a pointy tweezer. Using really pointy tweezers, it’s possible to grab even the poppy-seed sized nymphs right down next to the skin. The next step is to simply pull the tick out like a splinter. If the tick is big enough, get a sewing needle hot and touch it to the tick’s back first BEFORE pulling it out. That way the head isn’t torn off and left inside your skin.
- Clothing with built-in tick repellent is best for preventing tick bites. An easy way to avoid tick bites and disease is to wear clothing with Insect Shield® tick repellent built-in.
- Tick bites and tick-borne diseases are completely preventable. There is really only one way you get a tick-transmitted disease and that’s from a tick bite. Reducing tick abundance in your yard, wearing tick repellent clothing every day, treating pets every month and getting into a habit of doing a quick body scan are all great actions for preventing tick bites.
Here are some easy ways to keep ticks off of you and your pets…
Repellent for your pets:
For pets, add 1 cup of water to a spray bottle, followed by 2 cups of distilled white vinegar. Ticks hate the smell and taste of vinegar, and will be easily be repelled by this ingredient alone. Then, add two spoonfuls of vegetable or almond oil, which both contain sulfur (another natural tick repellent).
To make a repellent that will also deter fleas, mix in a few spoonfuls of lemon juice, citrus oil, or peppermint oil, any of which will repel ticks and fleas while also creating a nicely scented repellent. Spray onto the pet’s dry coat, staying away from sensitive areas including eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals. When outdoors for an extended period, spray this solution on two to three times per day.
For you and your family:
In a spray bottle, mix 2 cups of distilled white vinegar and 1 cup of water. To make a scented solution so you do not smell like bitter vinegar all day, add 20 drops of your favorite essential oil.
Eucalyptus oil is a calm, soothing scent that also works as a tick repellent, while peppermint and citrus oils give off a strong crisp scent that also repel ticks.
After mixing the solution, spray onto clothing, skin, and hair before going outdoors. Reapply every four hours to keep ticks at bay, and examine your skin and hair when back inside to make sure no ticks are on the body.
Do you have to fight to keep ticks off of you and your pets during the spring and summer months? If so, what are your go-to solutions for these pesky insects?