Ticks are active through October and until the first freeze, so gardeners, landscapers, horticulturists and pond contractors need to remain vigilant in preventing bites while outdoors this fall. Ticks pose a significant public health threat and can be found in every state, particularly in parts of the northeast U.S. that are being reforested.
Terminix®, the world’s largest pest control provider, recently released data from a poll with Harris Interactive stating that 43 percent of respondents have been bitten by a tick or know someone who has. What’s more, 33 percent of respondents have contracted or know someone who has contracted Lyme disease – a serious illness that can affect the joints, brain and heart.
Lyme disease is just one of 11 diseases that ticks may transmit to humans. A whopping 75 percent of Lyme disease cases are associated with activities around the home such as play, yard or garden work, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In the spirit of fall cleaning, Terminix advises those working outdoors to incorporate tick-safe landscaping practices into major renovations or new construction. This can be done through:
• Altering the topography to increase sunlight and lower humidity in tick-prone areas
• Using hardscapes, mulches and xeriscape landscaping techniques to help reduce tick habitat and isolate parts of the yard from tick hot spots
• Pruning trees, mowing the lawn and removing leaf litter accumulations around the house and lawn perimeter
• Cutting grass, weeds and brush along edges of the lawn, stonewalls and driveways
• Moving firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house, and using plantings that do not attract deer.
To find a host, ticks climb up on the edge of grasses and branches along trails and wait to drop or grab onto a suitable passerby. Ticks feed slowly, remaining on the host for several days until engorged with blood. However, following these tick removal steps from Terminix can greatly reduce the chance of Lyme disease transmission:
• Inspect yourself and any children for ticks after being outdoors.
• If a tick is found, do not grasp it by the abdomen and pull – you may squeeze its fluids into your skin, which increases the chances for infection.
• Do not use petroleum jelly, nail polish or a flame.
• Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick by the head next to the skin and slowly pull backwards. Working slowly permits the tick to withdraw its mouthparts so they do not detach and remain in the skin possibly causing infection.
• Once the tick has been removed, cleanse the area well with soap and water. You may want to disinfect the bite site with alcohol or apply an antibiotic cream.