In the spring and summer, my 5-year-old son lives outside. As soon as he gets home from school, he runs to the backyard and spends hours dashing back and forth, swinging on a swing or scribbling on the sidewalk with chalk. When we go walking, he loves to dash into the tall grass beside the trail and swat at the tops of plants.
This year, these behaviors have me worried, because some experts are predicting more cases than usual of Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness, especially in the northeastern U.S
. My family is moving there this summer. And the National Pest Management Association’s Bug Barometer suggested
this year’s mild winter and heavy spring rainfall could bring out more mosquitoes across the country.
My family is moving to Maryland this summer. My cousin, who lives in Maryland, recently posted this picture on Facebook of how she prepares for summer. It makes me nervous.
Maryland is one of 14 states that reported 95 percent of Lyme disease cases in 2015
. Every year, health departments report about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the CDC estimates
as many as 300,000 people test positive every year.
Lyme disease symptoms include
fever, headache, exhaustion, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes, and, frequently, a bull’s-eye-shaped rash. If left untreated
, it can cause chronic shooting pain and swelling, heart trouble, shortness of breath, and neurological trouble.
Mosquito-borne illness can also be serious. Zika, of course, was in the news last year. Though the World Health Organization downgraded the virus risk from a public health emergency to a continuing health challenge, and many vaccines are in development
, the virus has gained a foothold in the U.S
. Other mosquito-borne illnesses appear in parts of the U.S.
, including dengue, chikungunya, and West Nile virus.
And even if you don’t live in areas where mosquito-borne and tick-borne illnesses are common, let’s face it: the bites and stings are miserable.
On the bright side, ways to prevent mosquito and tick bites are similar. Unfortunately, prevention involves long pants and long sleeves in the summer.
The CDC recommends the following personal protection tips for mosquitoes
Stay away from where ticks live: areas with brush, tall grass, or leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails.
Use an Environmental Protection Agency-certified repellent that contains 20 percent or more of DEET, picaridin or IR3535. The EPA has an online tool
to help you pick the best one. Put repellent on after you put on sunblock, and spray it on clothes as well. Don’t put repellent on children’s hands, eyes, mouth or on irritated skin. Don’t spray it in their face, either. Put it on your hands and rub it on their face. Reapply insect repellent as directed.
If you’re using a baby carrier or stroller, cover it with mosquito netting.
Wear light-colored clothes (which make ticks easier to spot), long sleeves, and long pants. Tuck pants into socks.
If you’re especially cautious, or in a tick-infested area, wear clothes containing 0.5 percent permethrin. You can buy pre-treated clothes or pre-treat your own.
Know how to Replace and remove ticks from your body. The CDC has directions here
. Especially check under your arms and behind knees, between legs, around the waist, and on your scalp and ears.
Daily check outdoor pets for ticks—they’re sensitive to them and can transmit them to you. When possible, use a preventative pesticide
, like insecticide duster spray, or an insecticide-impregnated collar.
One woman’s viral Facebook post
last year described how her young daughter accidentally rolled in a nest of larval seed ticks in her backyard and ended up covered in more than 100 of them. Yards can harbor ticks and mosquitoes.
To make your yard less attractive to ticks, clear tall grass and brush and make a barrier between lawns and wooded areas and patios and playground equipment. Keep recreational equipment in a sunny location away from yard edges and trees.
Mow frequently and keep leaves raked. Get rid of trash in your yard. Trash provides a lovely place for creepy-crawlies and mice to hide and propagate. Trash also can harbor standing water for mosquitoes to breed.
Empty standing water weekly, and cover, turn over, or throw out anything that holds water, like tires, buckets, and planters.
Citronella candles and sonic repellents don’t repel mosquitoes
that well. However, pesticides containing DEET and lemon eucalyptus did. Use spray pesticides around the yard.
If you’ve got an indoor mosquito problem, use indoor pesticides
in your home and make sure you have window and door screens in good repair.