Home Landscaping: Preventing Ticks in Your Yard

For many homeowners, warmer weather means enjoying some vigorous or relaxing time outdoors. Unfortunately, it also means increased numbers and activity of ticks. While you may be worried about a tick latching onto you, the bite isn't the only thing you should be worried about. Ticks, who feed on a host with bloodborne infections, can transmit those diseases to future hosts through its saliva. These diseases include the well-known Lyme disease to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, among several others. Since many ticks prefer a different host at each of its many life stages, ticks can acquire several different diseases before the end of its life cycle. Luckily, there are several preventative measures that can help limit your exposure to ticks.

Preventing Ticks

You can help prevent ticks in your yard through a few, simple landscaping tricks. Clearing away tall grass or brush from around your yard and home, especially around the edges, can eliminate a common place ticks like to lay in wait, also known as "questing". Removing clutter from around your yard and home, such as old furniture, trash, woodpiles, or leaves, can also help make your prime piece of real estate look less attractive to ticks, as well as the rodents they often feed on. If you have playground equipment, placing it in sunny areas, away from the edges of your yard, can further lower your risk of attracting ticks.

Repellents and Natural Repellents

Landscaping and yard care aside, another effective means of preventing ticks can be found in your local stores. Synthetic products, such as DEET, Fipronil, Permethrin, or Picaridin, are pesticides that have been proven effective in repelling insects such as ticks. Of course, some people have experienced skin irritation or allergic reactions to the chemicals used in these synthetic products. Luckily, there are several natural repellents on the market as well. While natural repellents have not been as widely or extensively tested as its synthetic counterpart, options such as cedar oil, tea tree oil, black cumin oil, and many others, have a large following that is worth looking for those with sensitive skin or allergies.

Wear Thick and Long Clothing

Another simple way to prevent tick bites is by simply limiting the amount of exposed skin by wearing long sleeves and pants, tucked into closely knitted socks. Of course, during the hotter months, this may not be feasible due to the dangers of heat exhaustion. If possible, wear socks that cover up to your shin, or higher, and opt for thin, lightweight and breathable materials. Wearing bright colors can help you see and remove ticks before they have a chance to latch on. To further prevent tick bites, you can treat your clothing, shoes, and backpacks with a synthetic insecticide called Permethrin. Permethrin can take up to a few hours to dry but the effects can last for several weeks, up to a month.

Where to Look for Ticks

While many ticks "quest" or wait on tall grass or brush, not all ticks latch on where they attach. In fact, many ticks prefer to find an optimal feeding spot, searching for softer, thinner areas of skin that are well supplied with blood. This means that ticks can be found on any part of the body. In a German study of tick placements found on adults and children, analysts observed that ticks were often found on the head, necks, and the back of the knee on children, while adults saw a slightly higher number of ticks in the groin region, under the arms, and on the back of the knee. While ticks love dark, warm places, they can be found anywhere and can be as small as a poppy seed. Whenever you come indoors, remove your clothing and thoroughly check for ticks, even between your fingers and behind your ears. Showering can provide a perfect opportunity to check for ticks more thoroughly and reduce your chance of exposure to the many diseases they carry.

Tick Habitats

Although ticks can be found in a wide range of habitats, they are often found in warm areas with a humid climate. Whether in a forest, meadow, or your yard, higher concentrations of ticks can be found at the edges of clearings or near the taller grasses bordering well-worn paths, including deer paths and hiking trails. The thick underbrush or foliage that sits on the edge or border of a field, yard, meadow, or path is a favorite hiding spot for these opportunistic hunters because it is an area highly frequented by the multitude of hosts they feed on, including squirrels, snakes, and deer. Because of this, few ticks are found in the middle of lawns or wide, clear hiking paths. Although it isn't foolproof, sticking to the middle of the path can help lower your risk of attracting these unwanted hitchhikers.

Tick Bites and What to Do

If you are unable to prevent a tick from latching onto you, remove it as soon as possible to limit the exchange of bodily fluids, and lower the risk of disease transfer. To remove a tick, get a pair of tweezers and grasp firmly at its head or mouth, as close to the skin as possible. Pull slowly but firmly until the tick lets go of the skin, ensuring you don't twist or rock it back and forth. Other, more dangerous methods, such as using heat, may cause the tick to burrow deeper inside and release more saliva. This will not only make it more difficult to remove the tick but increase your chance of attaining any bloodborne pathogens the tick carries. After the tick has been removed, wash your hands with soap and water and treat the bite area with alcohol. Call a doctor if the area begins to look infected, or if you develop a rash or symptoms such as fever, stiffness, muscle aches, or fatigue.

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By: Jim Olenbush