Top 10 Tips for a Tick-Free Spring Season

It's springtime once again! Go out and enjoy the warmer weather. Bask in the sun and play your favorite sport. Go hiking or simply take a walk with your pet buddy.

But before you take a trip anywhere, make sure you're protected! Beware of ticks that may proliferate during this season. Surely, you don't want these nasty creatures to ruin your time.

Ticks in Springtime

Ticks are tiny, flat, brown, blood-sucking parasites. They thrive in tall grasses and shrubs where they wait to attach to a host. They usually feed on the blood of mammals like birds, rodents, reptiles and our pet dogs and cats. And yes, they feed on human blood, too.

As the temperature rises, ticks get more active and dangerous. Hence, the start of spring is also associated with the onset of tick season.

Ticks can transmit a number of bacterial and viral infections to humans and pets. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), an organization at the forefront of environmental and public health, reports that based on the World Health Organization (WHO) project on Urban Pests in 2005, "ticks are responsible for transmission of more cases of human disease than any other arthropod vectors in North America and Europe." Tick-borne diseases (TBDs) include Lyme disease, spotted fever, hepatitis, tularemia, and encephalitis among many others.

Because of the health risks involved, it is important that you protect yourself and your pet from ticks. This means getting enough information about them and taking the proper measures to avoid tick bites and infection.

Be Aware!

To safeguard yourself from ticks, the Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness UK (BADA-UK), a charity group in the United Kingdom run by volunteers who suffer from the effects of TBDs, is organizing an awareness campaign this coming April 7th to13th. The campaign is called the "Tick Prevention Week," which aims to increase awareness and consciousness on the dangers of ticks and TBDs. It also suggests correct tick prevention and removal methods for reducing the risks of transmission and infection.

Top 10 Safety Tips

BADA-UK says "the best and easiest defense against tick-borne infection is to avoid being bitten." It lists down ten simple precautions that will help you stay safe and tick-free:

1. Cover up! Wear suitable clothing when you're out walking.

  • Choose clothes made from smooth or waxed material because it is hard for ticks to climb.
  • Opt for light-colored fabrics, which make ticks easier to see.
  • Also use gaiters or tuck long trousers into socks to help prevent ticks from crawling under and attaching to them.
  • Wearing shorts is a "no-no" in a tick-infested habitat. It is an invitation to be bitten!

2. Use an insect repellent.

  • Permethrin-based insect repellents can only be sprayed on clothing but not on skin. Allow clothes to dry thoroughly before wearing.
  • Repellents that contain 25% DEET can be applied to skin or clothing. Spray moderately and repeatedly in small areas of the arms, legs and neck, as application over large areas can cause toxicity, especially in children.

3. Always carry a tick remover.

  • When you are in a tick habitat, make sure you have a tick removal tool (e.g. tweezer, forcep, hemostat,etc.) and antiseptic wipes, which you can readily buy from pet stores.

4. Walk with care, stick to areas where bare ground is visible.

  • Keep off weeds, shrubs and overhanging vegetation that grow at the edges of paths where ticks may be thriving.

5. Have a "tick buddy".

  • When you plan to take a trip to a potential tick habitat, designate a "tick buddy" to help you check your body, especially your scalp, as ticks can easily hide under the hair.

6. Create and maintain a "safe zone" in gardens.

  • Careful landscaping of park areas and gardens can help deter ticks, as they thrive in humid environments.
  • Use appropriate insecticides to help prevent ticks.
  • Clean up leaf litter.
  • Keep grass short and cut back overhanging vegetation from the edge of paths.
  • Divide lawns from shrub areas by using wood chips or gravel.
  • Keep seating and play equipment away from borders, trees and bird feeders.
  • If you live near a forest or a wooden area, divide gardens from deer habitat through fencing.

7. Keep your pets tick-free.

  • Use tick-control products that are available from veterinary pharmacies.
  • It is best to consult your vet on which control method is most suitable for your pet.

8. Treat pet accessories with repellents.

  • Spray pyrethrum-based repellents on pets' accessories such as jackets, beds, collars and harnesses.
  • If pets travel with you regularly or spend a fair amount of time in your car, it will also be helpful to treat vehicle upholstery.

9. Clean and groom pets thoroughly.

  • Carefully brush pets' hair to remove embedded ticks.
  • Check for ticks inside their ears, around the eyes, on the chin and around the muzzle, as well as in between pads and toes.

10. Don't bring ticks home.

  • Remove outer clothes before entering the home.
  • Clothing can be treated in a tumble drier to kill any ticks that remain hidden. Sometimes, high heat and a prolonged period of drying may be necessary to kill any remaining ticks.
Now that you know of several ways to protect yourself from ticks, you are now set to spend more time outdoors. As long as you are conscious and responsible enough to practice these safety reminders and to continue learning helpful information on ticks, you'll be able to stay safe wherever you are. So what are you waiting for? Delight yourself with the pleasant weather. Travel anywhere. You can even bring your friends and pets with you if you like. Have a tick-free spring season!