As a New Yorker, there is almost no better feeling than to stuff the snow boots in the closet, slide in to a pair of flip-flops and head outside to enjoy a few months of warm sunshine. Whether you’re hitting the trails, the beach, the park, or just throwing some burgers on the grill, be sure to take precautions to avoid one of summer’s worst spoilers: ticks.
Although small, deer ticks can pack a mighty punch, carrying a number of diseases. Over the last 25 years, the incidents of tick-borne illnesses have spread. Once most prevalent on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley, the number of Lyme and other diseases have become common into the Capital Region, north into the Adirondacks and west toward Syracuse.
In July of this year, a new species of tick, commonly called the longhorned tick, was discovered in Westchester County. These ticks are not native to the United States and while they are known to spread disease to humans in other countries, officials need to conduct research to see if they will transmit disease to humans in the U.S.
But these little black-legged parasites don’t have to ruin your camping trip. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recommends taking steps to help you enjoy a tick-free summer:
- Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave, like nylon. This will help you spot ticks more easily.
- Wear closed-toed shoes, cover exposed skin with long sleeves, tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pant legs into your socks or boots.
- Check your clothing or skin frequently to spot potential crawling critters.
- Avoid dense vegetation. Stay in the middle of the hiking trail.
- Jump in the shower within two hours of coming back inside to check for ticks or wash off any you don’t see.
- Do a thorough check of yourself when you return indoors and remove any ticks right away.
- Don’t forget your pets. Dogs and cats need regular flea and tick treatment.
The DEC also recommends ways to reduce the risk of ticks around your home:
- Reduce damp and shady areas in your yard.
- Since deer transmit disease through the ticks, reduce or remove anything in your yard that would attract deer. Remove excess seed from bird feeders, plant deer-resistant vegetagion, or install a deer fence.
- Mice also carry ticks, so avoid wood piles or other places in the yard where mice tend to live.
Summer is the perfect time to get outside, soak up that Vitamin D, and enjoy time with family and friends. Enjoy the water, woods, and summer to their fullest by being vigilant and proactive about tick prevention.
The New York State Department of Health, Cornell University, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency also have educational resources about ticks, repellents, and other prevention measures.