Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Not just the dog: How to protect yourself from ticks

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(BPT) - Did you know people do more to defend their pets from ticks than for themselves? Pet owners are nearly three times as likely to always protect their pets from ticks than to always protect themselves (36% versus 14%) while only a third (31%) of all Americans are consistently taking measures to protect themselves. Pets are well taken care of, since 85% of dog or cat owners take action to safeguard pets from ticks in some way, such as a tick collar.*

A recent survey for OFF!® brand insect repellents by The Harris Poll also found that many people are unclear about where ticks live. Three in four Americans (75%) know ticks typically live in wooded areas, yet only half know ticks can live in suburban backyards — and 51% mistakenly think you can avoid ticks by staying in low grass.

Knowing facts about ticks,which may carry Lyme disease, and other bothersome pests is key to defending yourself and your family as you enjoy time outdoors.

For Lyme Disease Awareness Month, here are tips from SC Johnson's Center for Insect Science entomologist, Dr. Tom Mascari, to help you keep pests at bay.

Snap a pic of the tick

Whether you're hiking for an hour or camping in a suburban backyard, it helps to know what you could encounter. There are around 80-90 tick species in the U.S. that survive in varying conditions, but only a small percentage of these species may transmit diseases. Reviewing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Tickborne Diseases of the United States guide and the Environmental Protection Agency's repellent search tool can help you find an appropriate repellent to avoid tick bites.

It's important to learn where these arachnids live to defend against them. If you encounter a tick, take a picture of it so you can look it up online and discover if the species of tick you encountered can transmit a pathogen in your area. For example, in the United States, Lyme disease-carrying ticks are most prevalent in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

While not all ticks carry illnesses like Lyme disease, they can cause irritation, discomfort and skin damage — a nuisance to spending time outdoors. "If you are concerned about ticks, having knowledge about where to expect them and how to choose an appropriate insect repellent that best suits your needs can help reduce your worries," said Dr. Mascari.

Choose the right "PREtection"

Instead of waiting until after you've been bitten by bugs, add "PREtection," a word inspired by expert SC Johnson entomologists, to protect against bug-related risk ahead of time, even before playing with the kids in the yard.

"Ticks love the places you do," said Dr. Mascari, "and they can live in places beyond wooded areas, so it's vital to defend against them when spending time outdoors."

No matter your lifestyle or where you're heading, OFF! brand recommends various repellent options to keep you protected with a variety of formats and quality active ingredients:

  • OFF!® Clean Feel products are perfect for everyday use. These fragrance-free repellents provide non-sticky protection proven to repel ticks (including ticks that may carry Lyme disease) and mosquitoes (that may carry the Zika, West Nile or Dengue virus). Formulated with Picaridin, which is not greasy or oily, it feels good on skin and won't damage clothing.
  • OFF!® Deep Woods® Insect Repellent V (Ticks) is formulated with 25% DEET to provide long-lasting protection against ticks (including ticks that may carry Lyme disease), mosquitoes (that may carry the Zika, West Nile or Dengue virus), biting flies, stable flies, black flies, sandflies, chiggers, fleas and gnats so you can enjoy the outdoors, uninterrupted.
  • OFF!® FamilyCare Insect Repellent IV (Unscented) provides the right level of protection for spending shorter times outside. With a traditional unscented formula with aloe vera and 7% DEET, this is the perfect choice for the whole family for feel-good mosquito protection. This product repels ticks (including ticks that may carry Lyme disease), mosquitoes (including mosquitoes that may carry Zika virus and West Nile virus), biting flies, gnats, "no-see-ums," and chiggers.

Consider your clothing

When temperatures are 45°F or higher, ticks can be active. Further protect yourself by opting for long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked in socks. Light-colored clothing also makes it easier to see ticks. For more information, check out the CDC guidance on preventing tick bites.

Set up outdoor defenses

Creating a tick defense barrier in your backyard can help safeguard you and your family. Consider stone walls or other physical barriers to separate moisture-prone zones where ticks may live (with more vegetation) from your lawn or outdoor living spaces.

"Ticks cannot jump or fly, but they can be carried by animals like dogs, cats, deer, rodents and birds to move around," added Dr. Mascari. "A physical barrier makes it harder for ticks and their hosts to get to your favorite outdoor hangouts."

Check for ticks

When coming inside, make it a habit to check everyone — not just the dog — for ticks.

"Ticks migrate from lower limbs and arms to more dark and humid areas like waistbands, scalps and ears, and they may be as small as a poppy or apple seed. If you find a tick attached to your skin, remove it as soon as possible with tweezers, then clean the bite area," advised Dr. Mascari. Ticks can also be carried into the house on clothing. To eliminate them, dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes or wash them in hot water.

By taking these precautions before enjoying the great outdoors — and checking for ticks when you return — you'll help ensure everyone has a happier, healthier time, all season long.

*This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of OFF! from March 28-April 1, 2024, among 2,066 adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,392 are dog/cat owners*