~~Quite rightfully so, the holiday season is suppose to be a fun time of the year – a festive time for enjoying all those holiday outdoor activities with family and friends. Wanting to crash the party however, are none other than those tenacious deer ticks, which we just cannot seem to be rid of, no matter what the time of year.
Despite what you may have been given to believe that the first autumn frost kills ticks, deer ticks can be found throughout the late fall and winter months. As long as the ground is not frozen or covered with snow and the temperature is above 32 degrees, you can expect to find them just waiting for a host to feed on. They have a kind of antifreeze in their bodies that, even if they are frozen from time to time, allows them to come to life once thawed out. And with the average winter temperature seemingly rising across the country, we are more likely than ever before to cross paths with these blood-sucking ticks when we least expect it.
Now that the Thanksgiving holiday has passed, some of us will soon be out with our families and friends cutting down our own Christmas trees or enjoying other festive outside activities. If you want to reduce the risk of exposure to ticks during these activities, it would be helpful to consider taking some of the following preventive measures to protect your family and pets from tick bites this holiday season:
1. Always be aware of your surroundings and know those areas that are likely to be beset with ticks. These areas can include your own backyard, gardens, woodlands, grassy meadows, and the like.
2. Educate yourself and your family members about ticks and try to avoid tick-infested areas wherever possible. Know what steps to take if you find an attached tick on you, your children, or your pets. Always save the tick, dead or alive.
3. When outside cutting your Christmas tree, consider wearing clothing and shoe wear that is treat with permethrin, a chemical which bonds to these articles, repels and kills ticks, and which can be purchased through most sporting good stores. Always be careful to spray in a well-ventilated area like your garage or outside.
4. As strange as it may sound as something to do in the colder months, consider applying an insect repellent to your exposed skin. The repellent must be labeled to indicate it repels ticks, otherwise do not use it.
5. After spending time outdoors, carefully check yourself and family members, as well as your pets, for ticks. This is very critical preventive measure and is absolutely necessary. The adult deer ticks you are likely to find this time of year are about the size of a sesame seed. And though they are easier to spot than the smaller larval and nymph ticks you will find in the spring and summer months, they still can be easily missed if you are not vigilant.
6. When going out to the woodpile to get wood to burn in your fireplace, be especially careful for ticks. Mice will make their nests in woodpiles, and where there are mice there are sure to be lots of ticks both on the cut wood and in the area surrounding the woodpile.
7. As soon as you get home from being outdoors, put any clothes you were wearing outside in a clothes dryer on high heat for a full 20 to 30 minutes. This will kill any ticks wandering on your clothing before they get a chance to crawl onto you. Please note that, despite what you may think, putting your clothes in a clothes washer on a hot water cycle does not drown or kill ticks. Only the clothes dryer will desiccate and kill them.
8. Instead of cutting down your own tree, consider buying a tree from a retailer where you know the trees have been away from the tree farm for some days or weeks. Keep your tree outside for a day or two before bringing it into your home. Keep it stored on a hard surface such as a porch or driveway, and not on your lawn or garden areas where deer ticks may be found. This time lag, from when the tree was cut to its arrival at your house, should allow for any ticks on the tree to die for want of the high humidity environment they need to survive.
9. Before setting your tree up in your house, spray the Christmas tree skirt with the same permethrin you would spray your clothing. Let the skirt dry completely for a couple of hours before putting it down. The treated skirt will kill any live ticks, which may fall off the tree and land on the skirt.
10. Consider spraying your tree with an insecticide to kill any ticks or other insects, which may be on the tree before bringing it into the house. But if you do so, please be advised that this may cause the tree to dry out somewhat quicker than usual.
11. And lastly, there is always the artificial tree, which comes without the worries of ticks.
By being aware that ticks are an ever-present danger and taking a few simple precautions, you can keep your family and pets safer from ticks, and enjoy the holiday season the way you have always imagined.