Let's start with the good news: it's that gorgeous time of year when everyone wants to be running through fields, taking hikes in the woods, and swimming in lakes that just reached the perfect temperature. The unfortunate news: it's also tick time. Yes, they are the gross looking little creatures that have the ability to negatively impact human health.
The truth about pest control is that you have to get down and dirty with some bugs that might make you uncomfortable. This is a case where knowledge is power and it is your best tool in tick prevention.
There are nearly 900 different types of ticks, but they all have the same way of life: they're the vampires of the bug world. They look scary and they live on blood (and only blood). Also like vampires, ticks cannot fly. This makes prevention that much easier.
Let's get back to the good news: preventing this pest is completely possible! Just follow this guide to keep ticks (and the diseases they carry) out of the picture.
Dress to Protect
Let's keep riding on this vampire kick. Ticks can't fly, so they lurk in the distance, waiting for any warm-blooded creature to walk by a leaf or branch they might be perched on. These parasites then attach to the skin and get to drinking.
In lieu of their common behavior, wearing long sleeves, pants, socks, and a hat are the perfect prevention tools. This is especially true when hiking or camping in highly wooded areas. If they have nothing to attach to, they likely won't attach at all.
Of course, this kind of pest control tactic isn't always possible. If you're swimming at a lake, you aren't likely to completely cover your skin. This leads me to the next, and most important aspect of tick prevention...
The Tick Check!
OK, so this isn't exactly a preventative measure, but it is important in preventing an ongoing problem with a tick parasite. Regardless of how well-clothed you are, sometimes ticks find a way. Perhaps your sock fell down and they were on some leaf litter during your hike. It's gross, but ticks love warm protected spaces, so tick checks are imperative.
It's easiest to do a tick check right before a shower. Be sure to be extra diligent around your armpits and backs of knees. Use a mirror to check behind your neck and back.
If you're able to check your own scalp, you should do so, as my tend to burrow and hide in a hair shelter. Otherwise, you should ask a friend or family member to check out your hair after a long day outside.
Note: It is important that if you find a tick during your check that you take a quality photo of it in your skin. Make a note of the date, where it is on your body, and the location of where you think you might have obtained the tick. Any doctor who is dealing with pest control management will tell you that identification of the tick is imperative to the prevention and early detection of Lyme Disease.
Removing the Tick
So, say it happens: you find a tick. It's not the end of the world, but it is important to remove it properly.
You need to understand that ticks embed their heads into skin and their bodies stick out. So, you can't just remove the body; you have to be sure to get the head as well.
The safest and most effective way to remove a tick is to take a pair of tweezers and put slight pressure on the body of the tick as close to the skin as you can get. Do not pull. Oftentimes, the tick reacts to this pressure and starts to release it's head. Gently pull up in one motion, you should not feel much resistance.
Note: Do not use petroleum jelly or a lit match to try to get a tick to release its grip. These methods are dangerous and ineffective.
Clean the bite area well, put the tick in rubbing alcohol, and store it in a container or plastic bag for identification.
Spray it Away
Now that you know the best ways to protect yourself from tick exposure, there are also several products you can spray on your lawn and/or body for further protection. It's wise to start with organic sprays if possible, as many chemical sprays have the ability to be harmful to your pets and children in different ways.
Organic pest controls typically use essential oils that repel ticks through their strong fragrances and can be used on trees, lawns, and gardens without having a negative impact on pollinators like butterflies and bees. Avoid spraying directly into flowers, you can use a piece of cardboard to cover blooms if you want to make sure the foliage is fully covered. Most sprays can be attached to a hose-end sprayer and used as a perimeter spray in a lawn.
Pest control products made for tick prevention are also made for human skin, and they can be used just the same way you would apply a bug spray for mosquitoes. This should become part of your routine when you take off for any outdoor excursion.
Note: Check products before applying to animals, but many organic controls are safe for humans, plants, and animals alike.
Keep on Keeping on!
Remember that while ticks are intimidating with how they might impact our health, there are steps to stay safe during outdoor summer activities and excursions. Don't be scared to go outside and face those little vampire bugs, because now you're armed with your own version of garlic to keep you and your family safe!