Be aware that ticks may become active any time the temperature is above freezing.
Identify Tick Habitats Around Your Home.
Deer ticks require a damp, humid environment to survive. Ticks are usually found in:
- Wooded areas & forest edges. These areas are the most common deer tick habitat.
- Leaf Litter. Humid conditions found under leaf litter provide an ideal living environment for ticks.
- Overgrown fields. These areas provide an ideal habitat for both ticks and their hosts.
- Watch out for mulch...new mulch can introduce ticks onto your property!
- When walking through tall grass or leaf litter, wear light colored clothing. LL Bean has a line of Insect Shield treated clothing that will repel ticks and other insects. You can also apply Sawyer permethrin repellent to play or recreational clothes that will provide you and your family tick protection. Insect repellent containing at least 20% DEET is also recommended for exposed skin.
- Daily tick checks reduce your risk of contracting Lyme disease. Because of their small (poppy seed) size, nymph ticks present the greatest threat. You need to check yourself, your pets, and especially small children DAILY after outdoor activity, particularly in the months of May, June and July. When showering or bathing, do a full body inspection for a rash or attached ticks. Remember that the nymph tick is about the size of the head of a straight pin. Pay special attention to checking favorite tick spots, such as backs of knees, groin, waist, armpits, and the scalp. You may be able to feel the tick even if it is too small to see.
Modify your environment by cutting lawns and removing leaf litter. Keep children’s play areas away from wooded edges and tall grass. Deer ticks will not thrive in sunlit areas.
Ideal location for children's playcenter.
Poor location for children's playcenter.
Make your yard less tick friendly by doing the following:
- Clean up your yard and keep the lawn mowed.
- Let the sunshine in. Sunny areas are less apt to harbor ticks.
- Keep children's play areas away from the wooded edge.
- Remove leaf litter and brush from your property and perimeter.
- Move bird feeders and wood piles away from your home.
- Don't forget about your pets. Consider a fenced-in area, run or invisible fence to keep pets away from tick habitat.
Personal Protection Strategies
- Tick Avoidance. Deer ticks require a damp, humid environment to survive and are most often found in wooded areas and wooded edges, especially in leaf litter and low ground cover. They are usually picked up on the lower leg and tend to crawl up the body looking for a place to attach and feed.
- Protective clothing. Some ticks are very small and difficult to spot, especially the nymph tick. Wearing light colored clothing whenever working or playing in tick endemic areas makes spotting ticks easier.
- Tick repellent. You can substantially increase your level of protection against both ticks and mosquitoes by applying a DEET based or other repellent to your skin, and by pre-treating your clothing with .5% permethrin spray. A single application of permethrin to your clothing can provide up to six weeks of protection, even after repeated washings.
- Daily tick check. The single most important step in reducing your chances of contracting tick-borne illnesses is the daily tick check. Be sure to check yourself, your children and pets after spending time outdoors in tick endemic areas. Use the sensitivity of your fingertips to feel for small bumps, starting with a thorough inspection of the:
- In and around the ears
- Hairline and neck
- Back (full length mirror or partner to assist)
- Belly button
- Entire groin area, front and back
- Between all skin folds
- Behind the knees
- Between your toes
Don't just look...feel...a thorough tick check should take at least 30-45 seconds. And don't be fooled into thinking that ticks are only a concern in the summer months. Deer ticks may be active any time the temperature is above freezing, and peak activity for the adult deer tick is in the fall of the year. Be vigilant.
Protect your family by using an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved repellent on exposed skin. Go to https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you and take the quiz to determine which repellent is right for you. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) states that DEET-based repellents are safe when used according to the directions and the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) suggests that products containing up to 30 percent DEET can be used on children over the age of two months. For more information on the safe and proper application of DEET products, visit https://www.deetonline.org.
Picaridin is an emerging repellent that warrants your attention...check out this recent article from Consumer Reports.Other recommended repellents that are effective against ticks include IR3535 and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
Assess Your Risk
Deer ticks...Lyme disease...Assess your risk.
- Have a wood pile?
- Have a stone wall?
- Have bird feeders?
- Live in a coastal community?
- Live near a field with tall grass?
- Live adjacent to a wooded area?
- See chipmunks or mice in your yard?
- See deer on or around your property?
- Have a history of tick activity in your community?
- Have leaf litter around the perimeter of your property?
If you answered YES to several of the above, you may have deer ticks in your immediate area and be at risk of contracting tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease. Lyme disease was named in 1977 after a number of children in Lyme, Connecticut suffering from similar symptoms came down with an unidentified illness later found to be transmitted by the black legged tick, better known as the deer tick. According to information released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year, upwards of 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease are suspected in the US each year. This is about 10 times higher than the officially reported number of cases, indicating that the disease is being vastly under reported. The data was presented by CDC officials at the 2013 International Conference on Lyme Borreliosis and Other Tick-Borne Diseases in Boston, Massachusetts.
The majority of infections occurring in the northeast and mid Atlantic regions of the United States. In the State of Maine in 2017, the CDC statistics showed over 1,850 confirmed and probable cases. Officials concede, however, that actual totals may be much higher. According to the CDC, "studies from the early 1990's suggest that Lyme disease cases were under reported by 6 to 12 fold in some areas where Lyme disease is endemic." You could have Lyme disease and not even know it.
Who's at risk? Anyone who spends time outdoors in proximity to deer tick habitat.
- Children playing in the yard
- Homeowners maintaining their property
It's estimated that 75% of Lyme disease cases are contracted within 100 feet of the home.
Even though humans aren't the tick's first choice of hosts, suburban sprawl into wooded habitat has placed people in closer proximity to white-tailed deer -the adult ticks' natural host and chief source of transportation. If deer are feeding on vegetation around your property, that is where a female tick may lay her eggs. Each adult female lays as many as 3,000 eggs per year. And contrary to popular belief, small rodents, not deer, are responsible for transmitting the Lyme disease bacteria to ticks. A typical mouse can carry dozens of ticks during peak tick activity periods and all have the potential to transmit Lyme disease.
Camps, Day Care, Schools, Scouts
Lyme disease is the most frequently reported vector-borne illness in the United States and is on the rise. In some areas of the United States, as many as 40-70% of blacklegged ticks are infected with the Borellia burgdorferi bacteria. While Lyme disease is endemic in the Northeast and Upper Midwest states, other tick borne diseases, including Babesia, Ehrlicheosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Anaplasmosis are also prevalent in these and other parts of the United States.
- Children ages 5-14 have the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the United States (Source: CDC) and most cases are acquired in the summer months.
- Tick-borne illnesses are not as prevalent in the spring and fall. Be aware that adult deer ticks may be active during the winter months whenever temperatures are above freezing.
- The actual number of confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease may be significantly higher than those currently reported by the national CDC. According to the May 7, 2004 edition of the Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), “Surveillance for LD is subject to several limitations. Studies from the early 1990s suggested that LD cases were underreported by six to 12-fold in some areas where LD is endemic…” In 2013, the CDC acknowledged the actual number is closer to 300,000 cases per year.
- Check the latest state numbers and incidence rates of Lyme disease for your state.
What does this mean for the safety and well being of children in your care?
Summer Camps/Scout Leaders:
By nature of their rural and often wooded locations, many summer camps and scouting venues support prime tick habitat. By utilizing a combination of education and awareness, landscape modifications, personal protection strategies-including the use of repellents and multiple daily tick checks, proper tick removal and prompt identification and submission, youngsters and staff attending summer camps and scouting activities can significantly reduce their chances of contracting tick-borne illnesses. By utilizing a reporting protocol to inform camp leaders, nurses and parents of tick removal, camp leadership can be proactive, not reactive.
Day Care Providers/Schools:
It is estimated that nearly 75% of all Lyme disease cases are contracted within 100 feet of the home (Source: Connecticut Department of Agriculture). If children are engaged in outdoor activities during recess or break times in proximity to tick habitat-wooded edges, tall grass, leaf litter, a thorough tick check should be performed immediately after all outdoor activities. In addition, don't discount the possibility that a child may have come to school with a tick already attached. If possible, allow the school nurse or adult in charge to identify, remove and secure the tick for possible submission to a local physician or testing service.
- Perform multiple tick checks throughout the day. Consider a tick check after each camp venue or at the mid morning break, lunch time, mid afternoon, and most thoroughly during the evening shower or bath. Instruct campers/students to use the sensitivity of their fingertips to feel for ticks. Personal Protection Strategies has a complete list of areas to check.
- Maintain a log of when and where ticks are acquired. This will assist you in determining which areas of your camp/school are most likely to support tick activity. In addition, repeated tick attachments to the same individuals might indicate a pattern of activity and assist with defining tick habitat.
- Pre-camp screening. Are incoming campers coming from a tick endemic region of the country? Question incoming campers/parents about recent flu-like symptoms, particularly in the summer months when flu like symptoms don't typically manifest.
- Be proactive in regard to tick-borne illnesses. Consider including educational literature in any communications to parents throughout the year.