Farm Bureau advises precautions during tick season

Published 8:00 am Sunday, August 20, 2023

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Summer heat breeds outdoor fun — and hidden critters looking for a quick bite. Virginians should take proper precautions when venturing outdoors as tick season continues.

While tick exposure can occur year-round, they are most active during warmer months — especially in Virginia, which ranks among the top 10 states for tick-borne disease cases with over 6,000 recorded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bites from the small, bloodsucking arachnids can infect humans with illnesses such as Lyme disease, which accounts for more than 80% of tick-borne illnesses. Tick-borne diseases also can vary by region, with more than 17 human diseases known to be caused by at least nine kinds of ticks nationally, the CDC reports.

Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening or hunting can put you in close contact with ticks, and many people encounter ticks in their own yards or neighborhoods.

The CDC suggests familiarizing yourself with where to expect ticks before stepping outside. Avoid woody and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, and walk in the center of trails.

While ticks can’t fly or jump, they can detect heat, breath and other signals from warm creatures. To find meals, they typically cling to the tops of grass blades or leaves with their back legs and hitch a ride on people’s apparel.

Check clothing for ticks upon entering the household, and use tweezers to immediately remove any that are found. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill clinging ticks, or longer if the clothes are damp. If washing clothing first, use hot water — cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.

Ticks also can ride into homes on pets or objects and attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats and daypacks.

Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases.

The CDC also recommends checking under arms, in and around ears, inside navel, back of knees, in and around hair, between legs and around the waist for any unwanted visitors.

For extra protection, treating clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin or purchasing permethrin-treated clothing can help ward off ticks.