Ticks and warm summer months go hand in hand. And we all know the diseases―Lyme, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever―that tick bites can bring.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of reported tick-borne diseases has more than doubled in 13 years, and 82 percent of the tick-borne illnesses tracked during that period were Lyme.
But with so much information―and so many ticks―out there, figuring out how to effectively protect yourself can feel overwhelming. We’ve rounded up 20 ways you can reduce your exposure to tick bites―from easy tips you can use immediately to the places on your body ticks most like to hide to how you can create a “tick-free yard” for your home.
4 Things to Do Right Now
- Use an effective insect repellent. The CDC recommends repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Find the repellent that’s right for you.
- Wear appropriate clothing when outdoors. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and hats are especially critical in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas.
- Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks, and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
- Tumble dry clothes in a dryer. After coming inside, put dry clothing in the dryer for 10 minutes on high heat to kill ticks. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If you need to wash the clothes, experts recommend using hot water to kill ticks.
7 Key Places to Check Your Body
Even if you’ve just been in your backyard, checking for ticks after being outside is critical. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to look at your entire body, and then examine yourself and your children closely in these CDC-recommended locations: underarms, in and around ears, inside belly button, back of the knees, in and around hair, between legs, and around the waist.
Don’t Forget Your Pets! 3 Steps to Take
- Work with your veterinarian to find the tick collar, spray, shampoo, or medication that is right for your pet
- Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they’ve been outside
- If you find a tick, remove it right away. Learn how from the CDC.
When you’ve got the time―6 methods for creating a tick-safe backyard:
- Clear tall grasses and brush from around the edge of lawns, and mow frequently
- Create a 3-foot barrier of wood chips or rocks to separate natural areas from lawn
- Keep a 9-foot barrier of lawn between the property edge and gathering areas, such as patios, gardens, and playsets
- Move playsets to sunny areas―ticks have trouble surviving in direct sunlight
- Discourage deer and other wild animals by constructing physical barriers that discourage them from entering your yard
- Move woodpiles away from the house and stack them neatly in a dry area
For more information about ticks and what to look for if you think have symptoms of a tick-borne illness, visit Arlington’s Public Health Division’s page on Lyme disease. If you need help identifying a tick, contact the Arlington County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension at 703-228-6400.