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Another pandemic: blood-sucking pests. Here’s how to protect against tick & mosquito bites this summer
Lifestyle

Another pandemic: blood-sucking pests. Here’s how to protect against tick & mosquito bites this summer

Humans might be social distancing right now, but ticks and mosquitoes aren’t. Here’s how to protect yourself from itchy bites and insect-borne illnesses this summer.

Pennsylvania holds an unfortunate record with insect-borne diseases. 73,610 cases of tick-borne illnesses were reported between 2004 and 2016, the loftiest number of any state in the country. West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes and Lyme disease by ticks, both of which are found in Philadelphia and can cause long-term health problems.

It’s no time to let your guard down, even if you’ve been careful to stay indoors.

Transmission of these illnesses will continue to rise this summer due to the mild winter, and disease-bearing insects are expected to be out in full swing. Plus, climate change increases the risk of contracting Lyme disease and ticks are emerging earlier from winter hibernation.

It’s more important than ever to protect yourself before venturing out to hike, camp, or do other prolonged outdoor activities.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health encourages city residents to “fight the bite” with recommendations that will make you an unattractive host.

Here’s how to keep yourself protected—and lower your stress—all summer long.

5 Ways to Prevent Tick Bites

1. Avoid contact with high grass and leaf litter.

Ticks find their prey by waiting on the tips of grasses and shrubs in high-traffic areas and attaching when a host brushes against them. Staying in the middle of park and hiking paths reduces the chance of contact with the insects.

2. Use a mirror to conduct a full-body tick check.

Use a full-length mirror or a hand-held one to survey your body after coming indoors. Ticks often latch on under clothing and in hard to see places, so conducting a tick check within 24 hours—the amount of time before ticks are able to transmit disease—is an effective prevention method.

3. Shower as soon as possible after coming indoors.

Showering within two hours of coming indoors reduces your risk of getting Lyme Disease and may reduce the risk of other tick-borne diseases. It may also wash off unattached ticks or help you discover a hiding one that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

4. Tumble clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks.

When you return home, toss your clothing in the dryer for ten minutes. While ticks can survive a hot-water run in the washing machine, the lack of humidity in the dryer will shrivel them up and give you peace of mind.

5. Check your pets regularly.

While oral and topical flea and tick preventatives are important for your pet, they aren’t guaranteed to protect them from every encounter with a pesky insect.

Here’s how to properly examine your pet for ticks.

Graphic courtesy of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Now that we’re prepped to prevent ticks, let’s move on to the next blood-sucking pest: mosquitoes.

5 Ways to Prevent Mosquito Bites

1. Use insect repellent.

When buying insect repellent, choose one with Picaridin rather than DEET. Picaridin is less harmful to the environment, and the chemical is broken down by bacteria in the soil according to scientists. Conversely, DEET breaks down slowly and has the potential to contaminate groundwater.

Always follow the instructions on the packaging before applying repellent.

2. Avoid being outside at dusk and dawn.

Avoid the outside during these prime mosquito hours. If you can’t help it, wear long sleeves, pants, and use insect repellent.

3. Designate an outfit for outdoor activities and spray it.

If you’re planning to journey into heavily wooded areas, it’s wise to spray your outer layer of clothing with permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent.

It’s important to note that permethrin should not be inhaled or sprayed on your skin. Permethrin and its related chemical compounds can cause serious health problems in people exposed to high doses, according to the CDC.

Protect exposed skin and go outside to spray outer clothing with the chemical. The clothing should be off your body and left outside to dry.

4. Put screens on windows and doors.

Enjoy the breeze without worrying about insect intruders. If you haven’t (and have the means), install screens on your windows and/or a screen on your door.

5. Empty anything that holds standing water.

Items that hold standing water are also a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Dump out buckets, flowerpots, barrels, and similar items.

Change pet dishes daily, replace the water in bird baths weekly, and drill holes in tire swings or other unexpected places where stagnant water dwells.

If you have a plastic pool for your children to cool off in, make sure it is emptied and placed on its side when not in use.

Cover photo by Art of Hoping on Unsplash.

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Avery Matteo
Avery is a junior at Bryn Mawr College majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in English. She is currently an Editorial Intern at Green Philly. In her free time, you can find her curled up with an iced coffee, a book, and her adorable dog Cosmo. View all posts by Avery Matteo

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