As people spend more time outside because of social distancing, tick season is underway. Ticks can spread diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. An Indiana University professor says people need to take extra care — even in their yards.
“Whether being outdoors is in your backyard, or being outdoors in the park nearby, or taking a hike somewhere. All of these activities tend to put people more in environments where they are likely to encounter ticks," says Karo Omodior, an assistant professor at Indiana University’s School of Public Health.
Omodior and his team have been studying ticks near where people live in southern and central Indiana. Nearly 40 percent of the yards and other properties they’ve sampled had at least one tick and about half of those had established tick populations.
“When people don't expect that ticks are there that also means they don't take the required actions — and that puts them more at risk of tick exposure, tick bites,” Omodior says.
Young ticks called nymphs are also active this time of year. They’re smaller and harder to see, which makes tick-borne illness more likely.
To keep ticks out of your yard, don’t let your lawn grow taller than three inches, remove leaves, trim shrubs, remove ticks from your pets, and deter tick hosts like deer, mice, and birds.
Some of the ways you can reduce your risk of tick bites outside are by wearing light colored clothing, tucking your pants into your socks, and using approved bug spray with ingredients like DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
“Tick checks are an essential part of preventing tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease. Quickly finding and removing a tick can help prevent you from becoming sick,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Jennifer Brown in an April press release.
The Indiana State Department of Health has other tips on how to protect yourself from ticks and how to safely remove a tick.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.