How to avoid tick-borne illnesses this spring

The first day of spring is Monday, March 20, and with it comes a whole new slate of potential health concerns that you and your family must be mindful of during this time of year. If you and your loved ones love the great outdoors, ticks are a particular nuisance in the early spring and bites can lead to a wide range of potential health issues like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and many other potential maladies.

Whether you're trekking in the back country or enjoying your backyard, practice these tick prevention tips this spring!

  1. Stick to the trail

If you're hiking or camping this coming spring, make sure you stick to the trail and don't stray too far off the beaten path. Ticks are more likely to reside in tall grasses, underbrush and other places with increased moisture and relative humidity. According to TickEncounter.org, tick nymphs can only survive for 8 hours at a time in areas that are under 80 percent humidity. As such, if you stick to sunnier areas and avoid the cooler, shadier spots, you will decrease your exposure to ticks.

  1. Consider yard landscaping

Whether you have little ones or pets who will spend significant time outdoors this spring, you should pay close attention to these areas to see if there is room for improvement to reduce tick populations. The vast majority of ticks around your home will inhabit the area between your yard and a wooded area, so remove potential tick hot spots like leaf piles, shrubs and ground cover near your home. Additionally, look into landscaping that will deter animals like mice, deer, wood chucks and other rodents that could carry the parasites.

  1. Cover up!

Ticks spread diseases by attaching themselves onto the bare skin of their hosts, where they can become impacted and will survive on the host's blood. An easy way around this in the early spring is to wear clothing that will cover exposed areas like your ankles, knees and upper thighs. While this strategy may not work for the sweltering temperatures of summer, it can make a huge difference when hiking or spending long periods of time in the wilderness.

  1. Perform tick checks

Last but not least, every time that you, your loved ones (the dog too!) spend a long period of time outdoors, be sure to check your clothing and extremities for ticks that may have gone along for the ride. Ticks can take several hours to spread Lyme disease and other ailments after attaching themselves to the host, so a good rule of thumb is to remove your clothing immediately after being outdoors and taking a shower immediately. This will give you a chance to check your skin for the presence of ticks, and remove any if necessary.

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