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Ticks (cont.)

Tick Bite Prevention

  • Avoid grassy areas and shrubs where ticks may be lying in wait to tag a ride on a potential "meal."
  • Avoid tick season completely by staying away from outdoor areas where ticks thrive, usually during the months of April through September in the U.S.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen, and brush them off.
  • Tuck pants into boots or socks.
  • Apply insect repellant, specifically the brands designed to repel ticks. Follow label instructions. Avoid use of DEET-containing repellents on children. Carefully follow instructions and apply some repellents directly to skin and others to clothing.
    • DEET-containing repellents with concentrations of 15% or less may be suitable for children. These should be carefully applied strictly following label directions.
    • Repellents containing permethrins may be applied to clothing but not to skin.
    • In areas with a high concentration of ticks, DEET-containing repellents may need to be reapplied more frequently than for repelling mosquitoes. Follow the package label instructions carefully.
  • Promptly check yourself, others, and pets if exposed to tick areas.
  • Make sure to treat pets with flea and tick repellents. If ticks are removed from pets, manage them the same way you would remove a tick on a person. Protect yourself from the potential exposures with gloves. In 2010, the U.S. EPA began warning pet owners about the toxicity of these repellents for house pets. A number of small pets have died as a result of overexposure to these tick and flea repellents. People who want to use these repellents should consult their veterinarian before use to be sure they will not harm the pet.
  • People who live in a tick-infested area and have experienced a fever within the last two months should not donate blood.
  • Taking antibiotics for the prevention of Lyme disease is controversial and probably only useful in areas of the country where exposure to deer ticks would be high.
  • There is no vaccine against ticks, but ongoing research suggests that a type of white blood cell (basophils) may play a role in resistance to tick bites.

Area-wide application of acaricides (chemicals that will kill ticks and mites) and reduction of tick habitats (for example, leaf, litter, and brush removal) have been effective in small-scale trials. New methods of control include applying acaricides to animal hosts by using baited tubes, boxes, and feeding stations in areas where infected ticks are endemic (for example, some areas in Texas). Biological control with fungi, parasitic nematodes, and parasitic wasps may help reduce the tick population. Some scientists are using satellite imagery to predict where heavy infestations of ticks are likely to occur so people may be forewarned.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/19/2014

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