Ticks and Lyme Disease Prevention
Create a Tick-Safe Zone Through Landscaping
You can make your yard less attractive to ticks depending on how you landscape. Here are some simple landscaping techniques that can help reduce tick populations:
- Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
- Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
- Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.
- Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on).
- Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
- Remove any old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.
Preventing Tick Bites
No vaccine is available in the United States to prevent diseases spread by ticks; however, you can take steps to reduce your risk of getting a tick bite:
- Dress appropriately: wear light-colored clothing, wear long pants and sleeves, tuck in shirts, tuck pants into socks, and wear closed-toe shoes.
- Use insect repellents on the skin that contain ≥20% DEET. ("Natural" products, such as citronella, are not effective)
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear, or treat your gear and clothing with permethrin before departure.
- Stay out of tall grass, brush, or heavily wooded areas; walk in the center of hiking trails.
Checking for Ticks
It can take several hours for a tick to attach and begin transmitting the disease, so the sooner the tick can be found and removed, the better. Checking for ticks frequently increases the likelihood of finding a tick before it can transmit the bacteria. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors. Then do a full-body tick check with a handheld or full-length mirror. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair. Examine gear and pets; ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, and then attach to a person later. Last, tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
If you find a tick, use tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth-parts easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
Contact your doctor if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever. Be sure to mention if you remember seeing or being bitten by a tick.
View an instructional video to Remove a Tick.
Helpful Hint - Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–do not wait for it to detach.