Warm Weather Brings Residents Outside and Ticks Too!

Residents are currently following Governor Baker’s COVID-19 Orders, which include a Stay-at-Home Advisory that is currently in effect until May 18, 2020, unless extended. Spending more time at home is leading residents in search of fresh air and outdoor activities while continuing to maintain social distancing. The Bedford Board of Health wants to remind residents that tick season is upon us and with the nice weather and stay-at-home advisory many people are spending more time in potential tick environments.

You don’t have to be walking in the woods to be bitten by a tick; it can happen around your own home, while gardening, picking up leaves or while out on a socially distanced walk on Bedford trails and grassy areas. Whereas spring is a popular time for clean-up in many backyards, please be mindful that ticks might be hiding under leaf litter that may have accumulated over the winter.

Deer ticks are one of the most common tick-types we see in Bedford. They can carry tick-borne diseases including Lyme, Anaplasmosis (Erlichiosis), and Babesiosis. These diseases are transmitted from the tick to a human via a tick bite. Deer ticks tend to live in grassy yards or fields that border wooded areas, in ornamental plantings and gardens, or any other area that might be shaded. Deer ticks are typically small and range in size. During the nymph stage they are similar to the size of a poppy seed and during adult stage are similar to a sesame seed. Taking personal precautions against tick bites should be taken anytime you enter a potential tick environment such as your backyard, while doing yard work, in a grassy area, wooded area or a hiking/walking trail.

Reduce your chances of getting bitten by following these steps:

  • Use an EPA approved insect repellent, like one containing DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 directly on skin for protection that lasts a few hours.
  • Treat your clothing and shoes with Permethrin which can kill ticks upon contact. Permethrin is not to be used directly on skin.
  • When out in a recreational environment, stay in the center of trails and avoid areas of overgrown bush or grass.
  • Wear light colored clothing so ticks can easily be seen.
  • Do a Tick Check. Check yourself, children, and pets for ticks daily and shower after returning indoors. Your fingertips are a good detector of ticks that may be on portions of your body that you cannot readily see.
  • When you return home from being outside in a potential tick environment, place your clothes in a hot clothes dryer for 15 minutes (do not wash first).
  • Check dogs and cats for ticks frequently, and ask your veterinarian about tick preventives for pets. 

While home during this time, create a tick-free zone in your yard.

  • Create a 3-foot-wide perimeter between your yard and the woods using mulch, woodchips, gravel, etc.
  • Prune plants, shrubs, and bushes to let in more sunlight, making it less attractive to ticks.
  • Keep grass cut short to 2”.
  • Remove leaf litter and underbrush from transition areas, stone walls, and wood-piles.
  • Place swing sets, picnic tables, and hammocks away from the woods where ticks may lurk.
  • Keep play areas and playground equipment away from shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation.
  • Minimize mice on your property.
  • Store woodpiles off the ground and away from your house and clear of leaf litter.
  • Install bird feeders away from your house and only provide seed from December to April.
  • Discourage deer. Removing plants that attract deer and constructing physical barriers may help discourage deer from entering your yard and bringing ticks with them.
  • Employ the use of Tick Tubes. These are small biodegradable cardboard tubes filled with Permethrin soaked cotton which can be placed around your yard.

If you do find a tick, you need to remove it promptly.

  • Use tweezers to grab the tick's mouth at the surface of the skin.
  • Gently pull the tick straight out with a steady motion.
  • Clean the area.
  • Do not squeeze the tick.
  • Clean the area with antiseptic and wash hands afterwards.
  • Call your doctor if you get a rash, fever or flu-like symptoms after a tick bite

For more information contact the Bedford Board of Health at 781-275-6507 or visit our website www.bedfordma.gov/health for tick bite prevention and COVID-19 information.