Living in Southern California and enjoying the “outdoor life” has it benefits but it also has it’s drawbacks, namely exposure to wildlife and the parasites they harbor and the diseases they carry.
One of Nature’s most proficient parasidic hitch-hickers is the Tick and it is already hungry for action in the South, West and Mountain regions. Peak tick season typically starts after Thanksgiving but their activity will peak between now and June and continue thru September.
Here’s how you and your pets can stay tick safe as you enjoy the outdoor life. Whether in your own backyard or while enjoying hiking, biking and walking trails, parks, dog parks and campgrounds it’s important to be prepared for tick encounters.
- Wear light-colored clothing. Light colors make ticks easier to spot.
- Tuck your pants inside your socks. This will create a physical barrier against ticks.
- Use insect repellent. Chemicals that repel other insects are somewhat effective against ticks, although a heavier concentration of DEET — between 30% and 40% —may be needed, to really keep them away. Permethrin is a stronger chemical that kills ticks as well as repels them. Products containing permethrin should be sprayed on clothes, not on the skin.
- When hiking, biking or just walking the dog, stay in the middle of the path (or fairway). Ticks can’t fly or jump, so they can only get on you if you come into contact with the kind of environment they live in: moist, often shady, wooded areas, with leaves, low-lying plants, and shrubs.
- The Sun is your friend. Ticks don’t do well in dry, open areas. Lawn furniture and playground equipment should be set back from the edge of wooded, shady areas. If you’re picnicking, pick a spot on well-tended lawn or open ground.
- Inspect yourself and your children (and your pets), especially the legs and groin. Ticks usually get picked up on the lower legs and then climb upward in search of a meal. The likelihood of contracting tick-borne diseases decreases if a tick is removed immediately, and there’s no risk if it’s still crawling around. The shower is a good place to conduct a tick check. Feel for any new bumps on soaped-up skin.
- Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)
- Remove tick friendly conditions in your yard by eliminating tall grass and weeds, trimming shrubs and low branches, as well as raking and removing leaves. Thin out thick vegetation, let the sun in. Ticks love moist shady areas. Avoid over-watering to discourage tick infestations.
- Prevent ticks on animals by using tick control products to prevent family pets from bringing ticks onto the property and into the home. Tick collars, sprays, shampoos, or topical medications should be used regularly to protect your animals and your family from ticks. Consult your veterinarian and be sure to use these products according to the package instructions.
- Consider using a chemical control agent in your yard. Effective tick control chemicals are available for use by the homeowner, or they can be applied by a professional pest control expert, and even limited applications can greatly reduce the number of ticks.
- Here’s how to remove a tick: http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html
Here’s more information on ticks and the diseased they carry.