Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association


July, 2010
Regional Report

Take Extra Precaution In Lyme Disease High Risk Areas

Where is Lyme Disease most prevalent? Data from 2004 to 2008 show the most cases in New Hampshire, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Rhode Island, District of Columbia, and Virginia respectively, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation.

Protect Yourself from Ticks

Experts including the US Centers for Disease Control recommend 20-30% DEET (n,n-diethyl-m-toluamide) applied on exposed skin and clothing as an insect repellent. "Nothing else works like that," says Dr. Katherine Margo, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. For extra protection on clothing (not skin), the CDC recommends permethrin, an EPA-determined Toxic Category III (low toxicity) insecticide that kills ticks on contact. One application can last through several washings.

Dress to Protect Yourself

Outdoors, especially in wooded areas and off paths, wear appropriate clothing that covers your skin. Birders, for example, may look dorky with their pants tucked into their socks, Dr. Margo says. They know how to protect themselves though. The CDC recommends wearing long pants, long sleeves, and long socks that can be tucked in to keep ticks outside, off the skin. Light-colored clothing shows ticks more easily.

Do a Daily Tick Check

The CDC advises anyone outdoors anywhere to do daily tick checks on skin and clothing. "Inspect all parts of your body carefully including your armpits, scalp, and groin. Remove ticks immediately using fine-tipped tweezers. If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, your chance of getting Lyme disease is extremely small. But just to be safe, monitor your health closely after a tick bite and be alert for any signs and symptoms of tick-borne illness." Remove ticks from clothing, then wash clothing in hot water and dry in high heat for an hour to kill any ticks you missed.

Discourage Ticks from Your Property

The American Lyme Disease Foundation recommends ways to reduce tick populations around homes in high risk areas. Keep lawns mowed and edges trimmed. Clear brush, leaf litter, and tall grass around houses and at the edges of gardens and open stone walls. In the fall, clear all leaf litter including perennial debris out of the garden.

Stack wood in neat piles in a dry location, preferably off the ground. Other sites recommend excluding deer with fencing or eliminating them. Much as I dislike mentioning pesticides, Lyme disease is a serious health issue especially in high risk locations. The Centers for Disease Control and the ALDF recommend having a licensed professional spray the residential environment (only the areas frequented by humans) with an insecticide in late May (to control nymphs) and optionally in September (to control adults). Be sure to check your community's regulations about using chemical controls.


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