Summer is finally here, which means that it’s the best time of year to be outside taking in the glory of nature. But from the mountains to the shore, the presence of teeny-weeny ticks can lead to big, long-term health problems for both people and pets.
Most often associated with Lyme disease, ticks can transmit bacteria to humans through direct contact with your skin. Lyme disease can appear as flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, headache, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Because the symptoms overlap with other diseases, Lyme disease can often be difficult to diagnose, but is treatable with antibiotics. If Lyme disease is diagnosed early, you are likely to make a full recovery.
There’s no need to lock yourself indoors, however, to avoid coming into contact with these foreboding bugs. There are plenty of ways to prevent tick bites, no matter where you are enjoying the great outdoors.
In Wooded Areas
Hiking enthusiasts know that the woods are a great place to be on a warm summer day. With a canopy of trees providing some much-needed shade from the sun, hiking is an ideal way to get some exercise and even boost cognitive function in the process. But being out in wooded areas can also expose you to tick bites.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking extra precautions if you go for a hike between April and September. They suggest avoiding direct contact with ticks by remaining on marked trails and using bug repellant “that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535” on both your body and your clothes.
Travel + Leisure also recommends wearing light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to spot and covering up with pants, socks and close-toed shoes to limit the amount of direct skin contact with ticks.
At the Beach or Lake
Heading to a body of water is perhaps the most popular summer activity for people of all ages. And whether you enjoy frequenting a beach or a lake, ticks can be found in both places.
The beach may seem to be an unlikely place to pick up a tick, but the long grass that lines the dunes toward the top of the beach can often house these dangerous little bugs. Avoid walking in the beach grass whenever possible, staying on open sand in the sun. Ticks thrive in shady, humid environments, so be sure to take a beach umbrella with you to create your own shade rather than find shady spots on the beach.
If you swim in a lake rather than the ocean, avoiding the grass and shady areas may be nearly impossible. There’s no need to panic; simply remain vigilant in scanning your body for ticks. If they are discovered within 36-48 hours of attaching to your body, there is less chance of developing Lyme disease from the encounter.
In Your Own Backyard
Enjoying the warmth of summer doesn’t necessarily have to involve leaving home. Sipping some iced tea in your quiet backyard, reading a book in your favorite outdoor chair, or hosting your grandchildren for a barbecue are all excellent ways to take advantage of summer without having to travel far.
Ticks can be present in your backyard, however. Landscaping techniques recommended by the CDC aim to reduce the likelihood of finding ticks in your backyard. These techniques include:
- Regularly mowing your lawn.
- Removing leaf litter.
- Clearing tall grasses and brush around your home and lawn.
- Creating a three-foot-wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and wooded areas.
- Discouraging undesired animals, such as deer, raccoons and stray dogs, using fencing along open areas.
If you believe you may be at high risk for tick bites in your backyard, the CDC also recommends talking to experts about spraying your lawn with pesticides to keep ticks away.
Know What to Look For
While these precautions are preventative, they are not a failsafe against tick bites. The CDC is a wonderful resource to learn more about what ticks look like, how to safely remove a tick from your body, and what symptoms to look for after being bitten by a tick. They’ve done all the research for you—all you have to do is enjoy your summer.
Hilary Young is a writer dedicated to helping older Americans live healthier, more fulfilling lives. She currently blogs for HuffPost50, Fifty Is The New Fifty and Medical Guardian. You can find her on Twitter as @hyoungcreative.