As warmer weather approaches, how can you keep your loved ones safe from ticks while still enjoying outdoor activities? Whether it’s your child or your pet, there are some simple tips you can follow to prevent tick bites and avoid these nasty parasites altogether.
How to Protect Your Children from Ticks
Most parents wouldn’t let their children play outdoors on a summer day without first applying sunscreen. Tick protection is just as important, if not more so. Ticks can carry and transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, and other illnesses.
Protecting your children from ticks involves a combination of the right wardrobe and repellants as well as staying away from areas ticks like to frequent. Before you let your child venture outdoors:
- Pull long hair back or wear a hat. If your child’s long tresses brush against a bush or overhanging limb, ticks can climb the hair and then attach themselves to the scalp where they are harder to spot.
- Wear light-colored clothing. If your child does encounter a tick, it will be easier to spot on a white shirt than a black one.
- Apply a repellant that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These include products containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), IR3535, or 2-undecanone. The CDC cautions against using products with OLE or PMD on children younger than three-years-old.
- Buy permethrin-treated clothing or treat your child’s clothes with a permethrin spray. The CDC recommends using a product with 0.5% permethrin. You can also treat shoes, backpacks, and other gear.
Avoid Tick-Friendly Spots
Ticks cannot survive for long in areas that are low in humidity and therefore tend to congregate in shady areas that hold moisture. Once you’re outdoors, follow these tips for steering clear of ticks:
- Avoid shady or wooded areas, particularly those with tall grass and leaf litter. Ticks like shrubs and bushes in your yard as much as they like natural areas if they can find shade and moisture. Be as cautious in your yard as you would be at the park.
- Stick to sunny areas. Sunny areas tend to be hotter and drier. Since ticks cannot survive in low humidity, you are less likely to find them in a sunny spot.
- When hiking, stay on a groomed trail. Better yet, walk in the center of the trail to avoid brushing up against the grass and plants that could be harboring ticks. It only takes a moment for them to grab on to a pant leg or backpack.
Keeping Your Pets Safe
Ticks are just as dangerous for dogs and other pets as they are for humans. While you cannot dress your dog or cat in light-colored clothing or tuck in their tail, you can try these actions:
- Get your dog a summer cut. Keeping your dog’s fur short will make it easier for you to find ticks on them and eliminate the long fur or hair that these pests find attractive. Consult a groomer for the best trim length for your pet’s breed.
- Keep your yard groomed and avoid wooded, shady, moist areas when out on a walk. Ticks don’t tend to discriminate between a dog and a child when seeking a warm-blooded host. When out with your pet, avoid the same spots you would when outdoors with your child.
- Consider a repellant. Pet store aisles are full of sprays, shampoos, and other products, such as collars, that can help keep ticks away. Consult your vet for the best solution for your animal given its size and breed. Remember, a product meant for a small dog isn’t necessarily safe for a cat the same size. Some products that are safe for dogs can be toxic to cats.
- Talk with your vet about medication and the Lyme vaccine. Many vets recommend oral medications in lieu of or in addition to topical applications, depending on your geographic area and pet’s potential exposure. Consider also asking your vet about the Lyme vaccine and whether it’s safe or necessary for your animal.
Check Your Children and Pets Daily
Tick prevention doesn’t end once your child or pet comes in for the evening. It’s important to check both, as well as their clothing and gear each day for ticks.
- Inspect clothing, backpacks, picnic blankets, and other gear for ticks. Ticks can come inside on any of these and later find a host. If you find a tick, carefully remove it, seal it in a plastic bag, and throw the bag away. Methods successful with other pests, such as flushing down the toilet or squishing, don’t always kill a tick.
- Wash any clothing in hot water and fully dry on high heat to kill the tick. If reusing before washing, put clothes, blankets, and other fabric items in the dryer for at least 10 minutes at high heat to kill any hidden ticks.
- Shower within two hours of coming inside. Showering can help wash off unattached ticks. It may also reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease, according to the CDC.
- Check children daily for ticks. In addition to an overall body inspection, look closely inside and behind your child’s ears, between their legs, behind knees, around the waist, inside the belly button, and under their arms for ticks. Make it a bath-time ritual! If you find a tick, you can use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grab it. The CDC recommends pulling upward with steady, even pressure and thoroughly cleaning the bite area with alcohol or soap and water after removal.
- Examine pets for ticks as well. Spend a few minutes each day brushing your dogs and cats checking their fur and skin for ticks. Check under the tail, groin area, in and around the ears, face, between the toes, and the belly, which are all areas ticks like.
Treating your backyard for ticks can also help to keep your family safe from these parasites. Western Pest Services offers treatments to control tick populations. Give us a call today to ensure you are doing all you can to protect your loved ones from ticks and the diseases they carry.