Summer in New England can arguably be the perfect climate to enjoy the great outdoors. Connecticut boasts summer temperatures that average 80 degrees Fahrenheit, ideal for enjoying a round of golf in Greenwich, discovering a waterfall in Darien’s Stony Brook Park, or embarking upon a scavenger hunt at the New Canaan Nature Center. While taking advantage of the summer season, however, you must be aware that the same season can be the most active for one of nature’s natural predators: the tick.
According to the Fairfield Health Department, Connecticut sees the highest rate of local tick-borne diseases diagnosed in the summer months of June, July, and August. While ticks can be active throughout the year, warm temperatures and high humidity provide the tick the best environment for questing and finding hosts. Many ticks are inhibited by colder climates, especially below 44 degrees Fahrenheit. The colder weather makes it more difficult for ticks to move their bodies and attach to animals or humans.
One can safely take advantage of outdoor summertime activities by taking small steps to protect oneself from tick exposure. When going outdoors, even for a short time, be sure to use an FDA-approved tick repellent spray. The most effective sprays will include one or more of the ingredients called oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, DEET, or IR3535. Some of these ingredients will deter ticks from attaching to you as a host, and some will cause the death of the tick who encounters the ingredients.
Tick spray is a great prevention tool, but should be combined with additional simple rules to increase your chances of a tick-free summer. Clothing can be used to your advantage when protecting yourself from ticks. Wearing light-colored clothing can help you better spot a tick after you finish your outdoor activity. The dark coloring of the tick is more likely to contrast on light-colored clothing, making it more easily visible. The sooner you spot a tick, the less chance you have of contracting a tick-borne disease.
Watch where you step! When outdoors, try to stay away from areas of high grass, shrubbery, or other vegetation. Even if you are within a wooded area, try to walk in the most clear parts of the path or land. Staying in places that are relatively clear of vegetation will reduce a tick’s chances of reaching out with its upper arms and attaching to you as you navigate your outdoor adventure. Ticks love to reside in thick patches of grass, shrubbery, and foliage!
When you come back indoors, your tick prevention is not yet complete. One should get into a routine of checking for ticks post outdoor activities. Check for ticks in hard to see places around the body, such as the scalp, armpits, and groin area. Ticks prefer to hide in spots where they will more likely go unnoticed - which gives them time to fully latch onto its host and begin feeding.
Don’t forget your dogs! Ticks can easily latch onto our beloved pets, especially since they are lower to the ground than humans and therefore more easily accessible to ticks lying in wait on bushes and grasses. Regularly check your pooch for ticks by rubbing their fur slowly but firmly in the direction that their hair grows all over their entire body. If you feel any small lumps, examine the patch of skin underneath the fur to determine whether your dog has a tick on its body. Make sure to look in places that would be easy for a bug to hide, such as the tail, in between the toes, and in the ears.