We have always enjoyed the outdoors, and we try to get outside as much as possible with our kids as well. When I was a kid, ticks were not something that we were concerned about. However, living in New York in this day and age means that you have to be vigilant about ticks. I have friends who have Lyme disease, and it is a very scary disease.
We have had many close calls with ticks, from our own yard to local trails. We have even found ticks on our girls after visiting our own school’s playground.
I am so careful about not wandering off trails, but I ended up with this huge deer tick on me on a recent hike.
Here are some things we do to try to stay safe from ticks.
1. CHECK FOR TICKS!
No matter how careful we are, we always check for ticks. This means even when we go to the school playground, we do a check. Be thorough, from your hair to having someone check your back.
2. Stay on trails and out of brush
When we go hiking, we are careful to stay on the trail, and not wander into grass or brush. It really seems we are a lot more prone to ticks once we go in grass, bushes, etc. This is also something good to practice with kids, since there is an increased risk of other things, like poison ivy.
3. Dress appropriately
It can help to dress appropriately. If you wear light clothing, it will be easier to spot ticks. Tuck pants into socks so that ticks don’t end up in your clothes. You can wear hats to help reduce ticks getting into your hair. There are lots of ways to use clothing strategically to quickly find ticks.
4. Wear repellent
I am very wary about chemicals in our daily lives. We want to stay safe from ticks, but are chemicals the only way to do it? There are natural formulas, but I don’t know how effective they are. Any time we use something with chemicals in it, I try to spray it on things like shoes or tall socks. There are more effective repellents like permethrin and DEET, but do your research on anything you use. Permethrin is highly toxic to cats, and DEET will melt plastic.
5. Make your yard as safe as possible
We live in your average suburban neighborhood, and my kids have gotten a tick from our own yard. We have since tried to make the yard as safe as possible for our family
~ keep grass short, keep brush trimmed and neat, no brush piles
~ you can use tick tubes in your yard
~ you can apply a natural tick killer to your yard to keep ticks to a minimum
~ stick with native species of plants and get rid of invasives (“invasive species of plant, such as Japanese honeysuckle and Japanese barberry are known to create artificially lush habitat for high-risk, disease-vector ticks” [source])
6. Pet safety
Pets are often an easy way for ticks to catch a ride. If you go hiking, keep your dog leashed and on the trail, and do a thorough search afterwards. If you let your cats outdoors, check them as well, as they can bring ticks into your home. You can also look into tick prevention treatments.
Ticks and Lyme disease are such a scary thing, so we use these strategies to be as careful as we can. Feel free to share what you have found to be useful in keeping safe!