ALBANY – The New York State Department of Environmental conservation is urging residents to protect themselves from ticks as warming weather brings the bugs out in full force.
DEC officials say there are steps that can be taken to avoid ticks and Lyme disease.
Ticks are very small bugs that can spread Lyme and various other diseases through their bites. Deer ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They will cling to tall grass, brush and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls.
Once a tick gets on the skin, it usually climbs up the body until it reaches a protected area, such as under clothing.
In tick-infested areas, the best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation. However, for those who fish, hike, camp, hunt, work or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, precautions can be effective.
Officials urge people to take the following precautions:
Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily; wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt; tuck pant legs into socks or boots, and shirt into pants; check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors; consider using insect repellent on clothing; stay on cleared, well-traveled trails; walk in the center of trails; avoid dense woods and bushy areas and keep long hair tied back.
The DEC also recommends people bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks. The say to do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly.
Most tick species prefer high humidity and damp areas. They also need a host nearby to feed on. Follow these steps to limit the occurrence of ticks near your home:
Reduce shady and damp areas in the yard; replace plants that deer love to browse with deer-resistant plants; remove leaf litter from field edges near wooded or unmanaged areas; remove waste, secure and remove excess seed from bird feeders; avoid wood piles, stone walls or other structures that would shelter mice; establish a three-foot gravel buffer zone between wooded areas and fields; install a deer fence to help reduce deer from dispersing ticks.