What you can do right now

5. Learn how to deal with ticks

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DO YARD & LANDSCAPE TREATMENTS WORK?
Yard and landscape treatments may lower the number of ticks on a property, but not the incidence of human tick encounters: Research conducted by the CDC found that spraying individual yards with pesticides did not reduce tick–borne illness and tick encounters.

WHAT DOES HELP?
Wearing light clothing so that you can more easily see ticks, tucking pants into socks, and applying a repellent, such as picaridin, are all helpful steps. In addition, the CDC advises treating clothing with permethrin to prevent tick bites. (Reading the full CDC guide is well worth your time and be sure to always carefully follow label instructions when using repellents or permethrin.)

TICK MYTHS BUSTED BY STONY BROOK/SOUTHAMPTON HOSPITAL!
1. Lyme disease is diagnosed only by a blood test.

An accurate and timely diagnosis of Lyme disease involves evaluation of current clinical symptoms and a history of exposure to ticks.  Blood tests measure antibodies to the Lyme bacteria which don’t usually appear until 30 days after an infection has begun.  The appropriate antibiotics should be started as soon as a clinical picture indicates a probable infection.

2. Ticks have to be attached to you for at least 24-36 hours before you can become ill.  Don’t wait.  Remove the tick with fine tipped tweezers. There is a very rare virus that can be transmitted by a tick bite in a matter of minutes.  Why take a chance.  Remove ticks right away.

3. Tick bites hurt.  A tick’s mouth has barbs that hook firmly into your skin.  The tick then injects an anesthetic that numbs the area, and an anticoagulant that helps your blood to flow.  You probably won’t feel it happen.

4. If you are not around deer you don’t need to worry about Lyme disease.
Deer ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.  These ticks feed on mice, chipmunks, squirrels, birds and other mammals, including your pets.  Also, ticks don’t fly or drop from trees.  Even if you are not around deer, you can still be at risk.

5. You are most at risk for contracting a tick-borne disease when you’re hiking or camping in the woods. 
In fact, you can be at risk in your own backyard.  Most people take precautions when they are out in nature.  Don’t let your guard down when you are gardening or moving the lawn.

Here are two supporting studies:

National Institutes of Health

Michigan State University

How can you lower tick encounters?
If you are concerned about fallen leaves providing safe haven for ticks, use a Zone defense: Divide your property into tick-safe and wildlife zones.

If you are reducing your lawn to make way for native gardens or meadows, leave wide, grassy alleys to frame your plantings and to provide walking zones. Doug Tallamy, renowned entomologist and ecologist, suggests that one solution is to reduce your lawn to wide mowed paths, and then stay on those paths during periods of high tick infectivity (May and June in Southeast PA.)

What is your best defense?
Finally, your best defense is vigilance. Do frequent tick checks. Examine your body when you come in from your yard or nature walks. Thoroughly check your body for ticks when you shower.

Who we’re listening to: a highly informative half hour podcast by Margaret Roach, New York Times gardening columnist, for an excellent discussion with Cary Institute tick researcher, Dr Felicia Keesing: Tick Research Update, and Self-Care Tips, with Dr. Felicia Keesing

What we’re reading:
Your Lawn Questions Answered, Margaret Roach,
The New York Times