Prevention and Control
By far, the best way to avoid Lyme disease is to be aware of the risk of tick bites and to act accordingly. The good news is that deer ticks usually do not transmit Lyme bacteria right away. Time is required for the tick's blood meal to stimulate reproduction of Lyme spirochetes in the tick's gut, and for their subsequent migration to the salivary glands.
Few people are infected before the tick has been feeding for 36 hours. Diagnosed in early stages, both Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are easily and effectively treated with oral antibiotics. If Lyme disease is unrecognized and untreated, it may progress to cause arthritis and neurological problems, but treatment is still usually effective.
Precautions to Avoid Tick Bites
- Tuck your pant legs into your socks and your shirt into your pants when walking in woods, brush, or tall grass. Deer ticks attach to clothing and then walk upward.
- Wear light-colored clothing so ticks may be seen more easily.
- Use an effective repellent such as DEET or picaradin according to label directions -- particularly on shoes, socks, and pant legs. Avoid applying high-concentration products to the skin, especially on children.
- People who must be in areas where ticks are prevalent may pre-treat clothing with a permethrin-containing product which both repels and kills ticks. Use only as directed on the label.
- To protect pets, consult your veterinarian about tick repellents, acaricides and Lyme vaccines for dogs.
- Inspect yourself, your clothing, your children, your companion, and your pets for ticks when you get in from the field. Ticks often attach in body folds, behind ears and in the hair. Showering removes unattached ticks, and heating in a clothes dryer is effective in killing ticks.
- Mowing grass and cutting brush in yards may reduce tick habitats in problem areas.
- When transporting pets or game, precautions should be taken to avoid bringing ticks into new areas.
How to Remove Attached Ticks [prompt removal is important]
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, preferably with fine tweezers, and pull gently but firmly until the tick releases.
- Do not handle ticks with bare hands.
- Clean the bite with soap and water and apply an antiseptic or antibiotic cream.
- Save the tick in a small bottle of 70% alcohol for identification if needed
- Consult your physician if you remove an engorged deer tick.
Folklore removal methods such as burning with a match or applying vaseline or nail polish do not work and may increase the likelihood of infection. It has been demonstrated that a single oral dose of the antibiotic doxycycline, if given within 72 hours of removal of a deer tick, may provide effective prophylaxis for Lyme disease.
The LYMErix vaccine, which was approved in 1998 by the Food and Drug Administration for use in adults, is no longer available. The manufacturer withdrew the product from the market in February 2002, citing insufficient demand as the reason for their action. A new vaccine effective against both U.S. and European strains of Borrelia is being developed overseas.
To control deer ticks, an integrated approach is recommended which involves personal protection, landscape management and, where the risk is high, application of acaricides to tick habitat. An excellent and comprehensive review of tick IPM will be found in the "Tick Management Handbook", prepared by the State of Connecticut.
Deer ticks thrive in bushy, deciduous habitats with leaf litter that provide the shade and moisture needed to protect them from fatal desiccation. Removal of shrubs, especially of barberry, honeysuckle and other invasive species, is a very important first step in controlling ticks around the home. Further control, particularly where ticks abound, may require the use of tick-killing pesticides (acaricides).
Where relatively small areas are to be treated, homeowners may use over-the-counter sprays or granular products, but lower concentrations of active ingredients and inadequate application force may limit their effectiveness.
For larger properties, a professional applicator with specialized equipment to mix and apply product with a high pressure hose sufficient to disturb the leaf litter will be the most effective choice.
We provide a Tick Control Options Questionnaire to assist landowners in choosing the most appropriate tick control option for their specific properties. Treatment options are based on the property's habitat and the risk of Lyme disease transmission in the town in which it is located, modified to meet the owner's personal priorities and level of environmental concern. A short summary of available products is included along with further details of the products and applications involved.