Prevention

Prevention

Preventing Tick Bites

The best way to avoid long-term consequences of Lyme and tick-borne illnesses is to prevent tick bites altogether. Use the following tips to minimize your exposure to disease-carrying ticks:

  • Avoid tick-infested areas when possible. When walking in the woods, stay in the center of trails, avoiding contact with overhanging grass and brush. Trails are less attractive areas for ticks to live than dense underbrush.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves and pants, and tuck pants into socks. Wear a hat and tie back long hair to make it harder for ticks to attach to your scalp.
  • When walking or working in the woods for an extended period, use duct tape wrapped inside out around the ankles to trap ticks attempting to crawl up your legs.
  • Wear EPA-approved repellents appropriate for adults or children. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application; some repellents are designed for application to clothes and equipment only. For more information, see the EPA Insect Repellent, Use and Effectiveness website: http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/
  • When coming in from outside activities where ticks may exist, put clothes in the dryer set on high heat for at least 30 minutes. Ticks cannot survive the dry heat. They can survive exposure to hot water, so skip the washing machine and expose the clothing to the high heat of the dryer first.
  • After spending time outdoors where you might have been exposed to ticks, make sure you get undressed in a dry bathtub so you can spot ticks that fall off clothing. Immediately shower using a washcloth to knock off any unattached ticks and DO A ROUTINE TICK CHECK on yourself and your children.
  • Check dark, moist areas, hair and scalp, behind ears and knees, elbows, underarms, skin folds and the groin area. Though it may take time to include a tick check into your family routine, over time it can become as simple as daily tooth brushing.
A few things to remember:
  • Daily full-body tick checks of yourself and all family members are your first and most important prevention against Lyme and tick-borne diseases.
  • If you are diligent about checking for ticks, there is no need to limit or abandon your usual outdoor activities.
  • Other possible tick-borne co-infections found in your area could include Bartonella, Babesia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, and Tularemia. See our “Co-infections” section for more information about these diseases.
  • Young children have a higher incidence of Lyme disease than adults – possibly due to spending more time outdoors.
  • If you have ever had Lyme disease, you are not immune and may contract the disease again upon re-exposure.

For more information about preventing tick bites, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/

Learn more:
Insect Shield Products

Using insect shield products and clothing can protect tick bites. Here are some links with recommendations on how to create your own insect shield clothing, as well as insect shield clothing and products.

Securing Your Environment

The CDC also provides suggestions for reducing the tick population on your property. Click here for more information.

The following actions are suggested to minimize tick exposure on your property (provided by Dr. Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute):
  • Using repellents such as DEET on skin or clothes (including socks and shoes) during prime tick season (May through August). Adult ticks are active in fall and early spring, but they’re much bigger and easier to detect and remove than the tiny nymphs, which transmit the great majority of cases.
  • Using acaricides like Permanone and Duranon sprayed on clothing (including socks and shoes).
  • Doing careful tick checks (and bathing, if possible) after time spent in risky zones, like woods and shrubby areas.
  • Keeping lawn grass short, to facilitate tick mortality from desiccation.
  • Generally, whatever reduces mice reduces infected ticks, so trapping mice or facilitating predators like foxes and owls will help. Predators do better when a forest remains unfragmented. Keeping mouse shelters like woodpiles and stone walls away from houses/play structures may reduce tick exposures, but this has not been directly tested.
  • A “4-poster” deer feeding station: Municipalities can invest in these devices, which apply tickicide directly on deer, especially its ears, as it interacts with a feeding station. Four-poster feeding stations work, but need to be operated continuously (year after year) and deployed over large areas. A drawback is that the feeding stations may attract groups of deer, causing herding and the spread of other diseases. For more information, check: http://wildlifecontrol.info/TickStudy/Pages/default.aspx (Cornell study)
Some commercial products, which kill ticks and the pests that carry them:
  • Tick Tubes: The widespread use of tick tubes containing cotton infused with permethrin can significantly reduce larval stage tick populations over time. This process works by mice carrying the cotton to their nests where larval ticks live; the permethrin kill only the ticks – not the mice. One such product is “Damminx” (http://ticktubes.com/).
  • Professional pest control experts can apply effective pesticides, especially during the peak nymphal season for Ixodes ticks (spring and summer).
  • Household soap can be used to keep deer from eating plants.
Additional information:
Papers on bait tubes:

Protecting Your Pets

Animals (particularly dogs) are 50 to 100 times more likely to encounter disease-carrying ticks than humans. Tick-borne diseases in animals can cause serious symptoms ranging from lethargy and lameness, to paralysis and even death. Tick-borne diseases shared by pets and humans are Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, bartonellosis, hepatozoonosis and babesiosis.

Protecting-your-pet

Check with your veterinarian for tick control products and/or a Lyme vaccine that they consider safe for your animal. Be aware that many common tick repellent products and medications decrease the likelihood of infection, but do not eliminate it. Thus, it is important to do regular tick checks, especially on pets that have been outdoors. Be sure to examine between the animal’s toes, behind its ears, under its armpits and around the tail and head, as these are common sites of tick attachment. Use a brush to facilitate checks.

Treatment should be started as soon as possible to avoid late-stage disease and serious complications. Standard treatment for Lyme is at least four weeks of a broad spectrum antibiotic and longer in severe cases or if symptoms persist.

To decrease exposure to tick-borne disease, avoid walking your pets through the woods or tall grasses. If this cannot be avoided, a tick check should always be performed before re-entering the home.

Protecting your pet is also about protecting your family. Humans have often been bitten by ticks that were crawling on their pets. For this reason, do not allow pets to sleep in your bed at night. This is the area of the home that has the highest incidence of animal to human tick transfer.

A great resource for more information is www.dogsandticks.com. This website provides tips on how to remove ticks properly, the symptoms of common tick-borne diseases in pets, photographs of ticks, and an interactive map showing the incidence of different tick-borne infections in dogs across the United States.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

CDC and the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC)

Proper Tick Removal

Ticks should be removed as soon as possible. The longer the tick is attached, the higher the risk of disease transmission. Most Lyme infections come from nymphal (immature) ticks, which are the size of a pinhead. Here are the most common directions for properly removing an attached tick:

  • Use a fine-tipped tweezers to firmly but gently grasp the tick’s mouthparts as close to the skin as possible.
  • Gently pull the tick straight out, with slow but constant pressure, being careful not to twist or jerk it, as this can leave the tick’s mouthparts in your skin.
  • Be careful not to squeeze, crush, or puncture the tick’s body as doing so may cause it to release infected fluids into the wound. For the same reason, do NOT use a hot match, petroleum jelly, soap, nail polish, etc. to smother the tick, as irritating it may cause it to accelerate the transmission of the diseases it carries.
  • Thoroughly disinfect the tick-bite wound, the tweezers, and the hands of the person removing it.
  • Place the tick in a Zip-Loc bag or vial and refrigerate it. The addition of a moist cotton ball will keep the tick alive; preservatives and alcohol are not necessary. Label the bag/vial with the person’s name, address, estimated time of attachment, and the date the tick was removed.
  • Have the tick tested for Lyme and co-infections by a lab, health department, or veterinarian.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you develop any kind of rash at the site or elsewhere on the body or experience any symptoms of illness.

Proper-Tick-Removal

“How to remove a tick” video:
www.tickencounter.org

University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wotB38WrRY

Alternative Tick Removal Methods

From the Dr. E. Murakemi Center for Lyme, the video below shows Dr. Murakemi’s “Blister Method and Straw and Knot Methods” of tick removal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9dsmFVPDqs

Tick Testing

Testing your tick provides vital information about any diseases you may have contracted from the bite. This can help your doctor narrow down a diagnosis and begin timely treatment. Testing your tick eliminates the uncertainty over the best sample to send and reduces false negative results by using the entire tick.

Tick-Testing

Laboratories that test tick-borne pathogens:

Analytical Services, Inc.
Attn: Tick Testing
130 Allen Brook Lane
Williston, VT 05495
(800) 723-4432
www.analyticalservices.com

Clongen Laboratories Tick Testing Service 1
211 Perry Pkwy #6
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
(301) 916-0173
www.clongen.com

Connecticut Pathology Laboratories
1320 Main St., Ste 24
Willimantic, CT 06226
(860) 450-1823

Imugen
315 Norwood Park South
Norwood, MA 02062
(800) 246-8436
www.imugen.com

UMass Extension Diagnostic Lab Tick Assessment
Holdsworth Natural Resources Center
160 Holdsworth Way, University of Massachusetts
Tick-Borne Disease Diagnostics
Amherst, MA 01003
(413) 545-4800
http://ag.umass.edu/services/tick-borne-disease-diagnostics

IGenex
795 San Antonio Rd
Palo Alto, CA 94303
(800) 832-3200
www.igenex.com

 


Additional Tick Testing information:
http://www.tickencounter.org/tick_testing


 

Disclaimer

Any information provided is for the reader’s own evaluation and is not offered as and should not be considered medical advice. A licensed physician should always be consulted when considering medical decisions and nothing herein may be used in place of advice from your personal physician or other healthcare professional. Links to other sites are provided for ease of research only. Information on those sites is the product of the website author and represents the opinion of those who publish the sites and does not necessarily reflect the opinion or judgment of the National Capital Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Association.

Public Service Announcement

NatCapLyme’s public service announcement (PSA) serves to inform the public about Lyme and tick-borne diseases. Public awareness through education programs and events is one of our association’s highest priorities. This PSA has been seen and heard on TV and radio stations in many states across the country. Please contact us if you would like to use the PSA for educational purposes.