The best way to prevent tick-borne disease is to prevent ticks from attaching and feeding for long periods. Notably, less than one percent of the ticks are infected with pathogens.
Ticks must be attached and feed for several days in order to transmit disease. Do not panic if you find a tick attached. Remove attached ticks by methods described in the “methods of protection from ticks” section. Be sure to record the date on a calendar and place the tick in a container in the freezer (a plastic baggie will work well for this purpose). Monitor your health for any possible symptoms of the diseases caused by ticks, and if they occur, see a medical doctor immediately. All of the tick-borne diseases are usually easily resolved after treatment with the appropriate antibiotic, but this will depend on early diagnosis and treatment.
Methods of protection from ticks
1. Avoid heavily-infested tick areas, especially in the spring and early summer.
Stay on cleared or prepared trails or paths
Avoid tall grasses or bushy overgrown areas and areas covered with large amounts of leaf litter
2. Wear protective clothing.
Wear light colored clothing so ticks can be seen easily and removed before they attach
Wear long pants and tuck pant legs into boots or into high socks
Wrap tape (masking tape works well) around the cuffs of your pants with the sticky side out. Ticks will be captured on the tape
Wear boots or closed toe shoes
3. Use a repellent that indicates it works well against ticks.
Many repellents contain DEET (N, N-diethyl-M-toluamide) which can be placed on the skin or on clothes. Concentrations of 20 percent to 40 percent or greater work best.
DEET is sold under several different trade names.
Additional tick repellents contain the insecticide permethrin, which should be sprayed onto clothing where it remains effective for up to three washings. Do not apply to the skin. Read instructions carefully, as it is harmful to some fabrics.
4. Protect your pets and premises from ticks.
Inspect pets frequently for tick infestations. Remove ticks or treat for them.
If your yard or premises is infested with ticks, treat it with the recommended insecticides.
5. Frequently inspect yourself and other family members for the presence of ticks, especially children, at least every two- to three- hours if you are in a tick-infested area.
Examine the head and hairline especially close. The waistline and other tight spots should also be surveyed.
Crawling, unattached ticks cannot transmit disease and are easily removed.
6. Properly remove attached ticks.
Use tweezers to grasp the tick at the surface of the skin.
If you do not have tweezers, use tissues or a cloth to protect your fingers and to grasp the tick firmly. A zip top bag turned inside out works very well for this purpose.
(Protection of your fingers is necessary because you could accidentally crush the tick. The ticks body fluids could be infected and contaminate your fingers. You could accidentally introduce the disease organism into the mucous membranes or a scratch or wound.)
Pull the tick straight out with a slow steady pull. Do not be alarmed if the tick head mouthparts) stays in your skin. Your body will take care of this wound and heal without removing the head. The important thing is to stop the potential for the tick to secrete disease organisms into the feeding site by severing the connection between the tick and your skin.
Do not try to remove ticks with a match or other hot objects, as this is likely to cause a burn. In addition, folk methods of using alcohol and Vaseline to suffocate the tick are not effective.
Record the date of tick bite and save the tick (freeze in the zip top bag used for removal) in case you become ill.
7. To prevent tick populations from building up in your yard, keep ticks off your pets, keep your lawn mowed and prevent the growth of tall grass, weeds or brush in fence lines and around shrubbery.
Landscaping Tips to Reduce or Limit Tick Access to Your Property:
Remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edges of lawns.
Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration to recreational areas.
Mow the lawn and clear brush and leaf litter frequently.
Keep the ground under bird feeders clean.
Stack wood neatly and in dry areas.
Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from yard edges and trees.
8. Do not use pet tick and flea collars on humans to repel ticks.
9. Discourage deer from entering your lawn.
10. Bait boxes that treat wild rodents with acaricide (insecticide that kills ticks) are now available for home use. Properly used, these boxes have been shown to reduce ticks around homes by more than 50 percent. The treatment is similar to products used to control fleas and ticks on pets; it does not harm the rodents. Bait boxes are available from licensed pest control companies.