A. The simple answer is to avoid being bitten by a tick. This isn’t a very practical answer for many people who enjoy working and playing outdoors, and some occupations expose workers to ticks every day. Many Lyme sufferers were bitten in their own yard. But there are some things you can do to reduce your risk.
Ticks are most plentiful in areas where woodlands transition into fields, meadows, or yards. Ticks are often found in tall grass, gardens, or mulch beds. Ticks cannot jump or fly. They are rarely found more than three feet above the ground. Deer paths through the woods are often loaded with ticks. Leaf litter, wood piles, and rock walls are also areas of high tick concentration. Where deer and/or mice are present, ticks are usually abundant.
When you are in such areas, you need to be particularly vigilant to prevent a tick from attaching to your body. There are various insecticides such as permethrin spray for clothing, that may help. Permethrin kills ticks.
You can treat your own clothing with permethrin, which is easy to do and lasts for 6-8 weeks. The clothing can be washed a couple of times before re-treatment is necessary.
Permanently-treated clothing using permethrin is available from several companies and has proven to be very effective. The clothing can be washed at least 70 times and still retain its ability to kill ticks and other insects. It is a very safe compound, originally found in chrysanthemums, that binds with the clothing fabric. It does not work if applied to your skin.
Insect repellents containing DEET are also effective. (On children, for safety, avoid products that contain more than 30% DEET.) Newer products, such as Bio-UD may be safer for children. Light-colored clothing makes it easier to spot ticks. Wearing long pants, and long-sleeved shirts are helpful. Tuck pant legs into socks to make it more difficult for ticks to crawl up your legs. Walk in the center of trails. After any time spent outdoors, check for ticks while you are out and as soon as you get back. Showering is also helpful. Remember that some of the ticks are extremely small and are almost impossible to see. Putting your clothing in a clothes dryer at high heat will kill ticks in about an hour, but ticks can survive on clothes in a washing machine.
There are products that can be used outdoors to kill ticks. For example, Damminix™ consists of cotton balls soaked in permethrin insecticide inside cardboard tubes that you place around your property where you expect mice may live (wood piles, stone walls, etc.). The cotton will be used by mice building their nests. The permethrin in the cotton kills the ticks on the mice with minimal danger to people, pets, or wildlife. Some communities use deer feeders that apply insecticide to the deer as they eat. Tick traps are also commercially available. Some lawn care companies can spray your yard with an EPA-approved acaricide. Even if you rarely go outside, you can still be infected if your pets bring ticks into the house. Veterinarians recommend a product like Preventic™ collars, Frontline™, Top Spot™ and similar products to minimize the risk. (Use of chemicals is a personal decision and we do not make product recommendations.)
Some researchers think that Lyme can be spread by other biting insects like mosquitoes, horseflies, deerflies, fleas, and lice. Although human infection has not yet been proven, these insects have been shown to carry the Lyme bacteria.