The article below was written by Robert B. Oley, PE, MSPH. You can find Robert’s contact information at the bottom of the article.
Ticks – Cesspools of Disease
Deer Ticks – Lyme Disease, Bebesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Bartonellosis, Mycoplasma, Borrelia Miyamotoi, Powassan Virus
Lone Star Ticks – Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, STARI disease, Tularemia, Heartland virus, Red Meat Allergy
American Dog Ticks – Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Tick Paralysis, Ehrlichiosis (likely)
- Avoid areas known to harbor ticks such as leaf litter (never jump in leaf piles), woodlands, meadows, ground cover (pachysandra, ivy, etc.) high grass, brushy areas, and ecotone/transition areas along the grass perimeter of woodlands, gardens, etc. Also avoided should be those places where rodents (mice, chipmunks, etc.) dwell, including in or near stonewalls, woodpiles, tree stumps, fallen logs, and outside storage sheds.
- Spray clothes, hats, show wear, backpacks, etc. with the chemical permethrin, which can be purchased through most large sporting goods stores such as Cabela’s, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. The clothing will repel and kill ticks through 5 or 6 washings, while shoe wear and backpacks will need to resprayed every 6 weeks.
- Purchase clothing pretreated with permethrin from retailers such as Insect Shield, LL Bean, REI, Orvis, EX Officio, and Zorrel. The clothing will repel and kill ticks for at least 70 washings, or practically speaking for the life of the garment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved pretreated clothing in 2003 as safe for people of all ages to wear, including pregnant women. The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. National Institute For Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend wearing apparel pretreated with permethrin for disease prevention.
- Send clothing to Insect Shield, www.insectshield.com, to be treated with permethrin for outdoor activities (summer camps, gardening, hiking, hunting, golfing, etc.) The cost is nominal and well worth every dollar spent.
- Apply tick repellents to exposed skin. In 2008 the CDC came out with a list of four repellent ingredients that they rated equally as being effective against ticks. The ingredients included the three chemicals DEET, IR3535, and Picardin and the natural essential oil Lemon Eucalyptus. Any products containing these can generally be counted upon to provide protection against ticks. There are also a myriad of other products on the market with “natural” ingredients such as castor oil, cedar oil, citronella oil, geranium oil, peppermint oil, lavender, and rosemary oil that may also be effective in repelling ticks. But actual test data on how well these compounds really work to repel ticks is usually not readily available to the general public, which brings us to the EPA.
- The EPA is required to review and register all insect and tick repellent products that contain chemicals for product safety and efficacy. This same requirement does not apply to “natural” products unless that information is voluntarily provided to the EPA website, http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/. This listing breaks down the tick repellent products by name, hourly protection time, active ingredients, company name, and EPA registration number, and is a great resource for making that all important decision on which tick repellent to use on your skin.
- Conduct body tick checks after outdoor activities, as well as at night before bedtime. Ticks like moist areas of the body especially between the toes, behind the knee, in the groin, navel, armpits, behind the ear, and on the scalp.
- Safely remove and save attached ticks for future testing of the tick to determine whether it may be carrying any Lyme disease organisms in its body, which could have been transferred to you. You can purchase test kits through the Amazon website. One such kit, Lyme-Aid, allows you to send the tick to a lab for testing. Another kit, Lymenator, allows you to easily test the tick yourself for Lyme disease with results obtained within 10 minutes of testing.
- Create tick-safer zones in commonly used yard and play areas. Increase sunlight onto property, trim trees and bushes, mow grass, minimize vegetative ground cover, remove leaves and brush, move firewood piles and bird feeders away from house, use hardscape (patios, decks, etc.) and xeriscape (plants not requiring lost of water) landscape practices, move swing sets and play areas away from the edges of woodlands, establish a wood chip or gravel buffers along woodland tree lines, stone walls, and under swing sets and children play areas, use plantings that do no attract deer, and install deer fencing.
- Use least toxic pesticide application on selective areas of your property including woodland and stonewall edges, around garden areas, sheds, woodpiles, and other commonly used areas. Consider using permethrin, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, cedar oil, or Essentria IC3 (rosemary oil, geraniol, and peppermint oil). A website to purchase your own supply is, www.domyownpestcontrol.com
Robert B. Oley, PE, MSPH