As warmer weather approaches and you start to spend more time outdoors, what can you do to keep your loved ones safe from mosquito and tick bites? Whether it’s your child or your pet, there are some simple tips you can follow to prevent bites and avoid these nasty pests altogether.
How to Protect Your Children from Ticks and Mosquitoes
Protecting your children from tick and mosquito bites should be as second nature as preventing a sunburn. Bites can be painful, and both mosquitoes and ticks can carry diseases, some of which have long-term implications. Ticks can carry and transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, and other illnesses. Mosquitoes have been known to transmit the West Nile virus, various forms of encephalitis, and other illnesses.
Protecting your children from these pests involves a combination of the right wardrobe and repellants as well as staying away from areas mosquitoes and ticks like to frequent. Before you let your children venture outdoors:
- Wear light-colored clothing to detract mosquitoes and make ticks more visible. Mosquitoes are more attracted to dark colors that hold in heat. Wearing light-colored clothing that tends to reflect the heat will make your child less noticeable to a mosquito.
- Pull long hair back or wear a hat. If your child’s long tresses brush against a bush or overhanging limb, ticks can climb the hair and then attach themselves to the scalp where they are harder to spot.
- Apply a repellant that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These include products containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), IR3535, or 2-undecanone. According to the CDC, these products are even safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women when used as directed, although the agency cautions against applying products with OLE or PMD to children younger than three-years-old. You should never apply repellant to a child’s hands, mouth, or eyes.
- Treat clothing with a permethrin spray. The CDC recommends using a product with 0.5% permethrin. You can also treat shoes, backpacks, and other gear.
Avoid Tick- and Mosquito -Friendly Spots
Ticks and mosquitoes prefer shady, moist areas. Once you’re outdoors, follow these tips for steering clear of these pests:
- Avoid shady or wooded areas, particularly those with tall grass and leaf litter. Ticks and mosquitoes like shrubs and bushes in your yard as much as they like natural areas if they can find shade and moisture. Be as cautious in your yard as you would be at the park.
- Stick to sunny areas. Sunny areas tend to be hotter and drier. Since ticks cannot survive in low humidity, you are less likely to find them in a sunny spot. While mosquitoes can still be active during the day, you’re less likely to encounter them in a warm, sunny spot in the afternoon than at dusk or dawn when the light is lower.
- When hiking, stay on a groomed trail. Better yet, walk in the center of the trail to avoid brushing up against the grass and plants that could be harboring ticks. It only takes a moment for one to grab onto your pant leg or backpack.
Keeping Your Pets Safe
Ticks and mosquitoes can be just as dangerous for dogs and other pets as they are for humans. While you cannot dress your dog or cat in light-colored clothing or tuck in their tail, you can try these actions:
- Get your dog a summer cut. Keeping your dog’s fur short will make it easier for you to find ticks on them and eliminate the long fur or hair that these pests find attractive. Consult a groomer for the best trim length for your pet’s breed.
- Keep your yard groomed and avoid wooded, shady, moist areas when out on a walk. Ticks and mosquitoes don’t tend to discriminate between a dog and a child when seeking a warm-blooded host. When out with your pet, avoid the same spots you would when outdoors with your child.
- Consider a repellant. Pet store aisles are full of sprays, shampoos, and other products, such as collars, that can help keep ticks away. Consult your vet for the best solution for your animal given its size and breed. Remember, a product meant for a small dog isn’t necessarily safe for a cat the same size. Some products that are safe for dogs can be toxic to cats.
- Talk with your vet about medication and the Lyme vaccine. To detract ticks, many vets recommend oral medications in lieu of or in addition to topical applications, depending on your geographic area and pet’s potential exposure. Consider also asking your vet about the Lyme vaccine and whether it’s safe or necessary for your animal.
Check Your Children and Pets Daily
Tick prevention doesn’t end once your child or pet comes in for the evening. It’s important to check both, as well as their clothing and gear each day for ticks.
- Inspect clothing, backpacks, picnic blankets, and other gear for ticks. Ticks can come inside on any of these and later find a host. If you find a tick, carefully remove it, seal it in a plastic bag, and throw the bag away. Methods successful with other pests, such as flushing down the toilet or squishing, don’t always kill a tick.
- Wash any clothing in hot water and fully dry on high heat to kill the tick. If reusing before washing, put clothes, blankets, and other fabric items in the dryer for at least 10 minutes at high heat to kill any hidden ticks.
- Shower within two hours of coming inside. Showering can help wash off unattached ticks. It may also reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease, according to the CDC.
- Check children daily for ticks. In addition to an overall body inspection, look closely inside and behind your child’s ears, between their legs, behind knees, around the waist, inside the belly button, and under their arms for ticks. Make it a bath-time ritual! If you find a tick, you can use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grab it. The CDC recommends pulling upward with steady, even pressure and thoroughly cleaning the bite area with alcohol or soap and water after removal.
- Examine pets for ticks as well. Spend a few minutes each day brushing your dogs and cats checking their fur and skin for ticks. Check under the tail, groin area, in and around the ears, face, between the toes, and the belly, which are all areas ticks like.
Treating your backyard for ticks and mosquitoes can also help to keep your family safe from these pests. Waltham Pest Services offers treatments to control tick populations. Contact us today to ensure you are doing all you can to protect your loved ones from ticks and mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.