Avoid Lyme disease with some important precautions

Follow these simple tips to avoid exposure to ticks this summer.

Simple precautions van save years of serious health issues from Lyme disease.
(Photo credit: Public Health Agency of Canada. Click photo to go to their Lyme disease link)

According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is the most common and fastest growing vector-borne, infectious disease in the country.  Its increasingly virulent co-infections contribute to what is a major public health problem.  At this time, there are no vaccines in use to prevent Lyme disease or the co-infections.  Available diagnostic tools have not been proven to be 100 per cent reliable.

An estimated three quarters of all Lyme disease cases are acquired from ticks picked up during activities around the home and cottage, while playing outside, picnicking or even gardening. To significantly help reduce the risk of being bitten by infected ticks, it is recommended  that homeowners create low-risk tick zones, which can easily be implemented and at minimal cost.

Here is a checklist of things to do to remove tick risk around your home.
• Tidy up by removing leaves, branches and debris, which create hiding places for ticks and their hosts.
• Install three-foot-wide gravel or wood chip barriers along the edges of stone walls, ornamental gardens and woodlot perimeters.
• Create gravel or wood chip pathways linking the house to frequently used outside areas.
• Keep woodpiles and bird feeders far away from the home as they attract rodents which ticks feed on.
• Open up areas to direct sunlight and keep lawns cut short to reduce the humid environment that ticks thrive in.
• Locate play and recreational areas at least 10 feet away from wooded edges; place play sets on wood chip beds and in sunny areas.
• Make outdoor living space patio and non-grass or non-vegetative areas

When working or playing outside, especially at the cottage, you can wear clothing that is treated with the synthetic chemical permethrin, which repels and kills ticks.  Permethrin is safe for use on clothing apparel. Treat your own footwear and clothing (good for 5 washings) with a permethrin spray, or purchase pre-treated clothing (good for 70 washings).  Wearing an insect repellent on exposed skin will provide added protection, but by itself does not work nearly as effectively as tick-repellent clothing.

Always remember to check yourself and your children for ticks, put clothing worn outside in the dryer for at least 30 minutes to kill any ticks crawling on them, and shower within an hour of being outdoors. Promptly and properly remove any ticks that you may find.

While the latest statistics about Lyme and tick-borne diseases can be disturbing, these simple outdoor and indoor measures can provide added protection against these diseases.

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