Health

Tips and Tricks to Avoid Ticks and Lyme Disease All Summer

Win the battle in your own backyard by practicing these steps to keep nature’s biggest nuisance at bay.


family walking in woods

Photo by Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images

Keep your pets in check. Cats and dogs can bring ticks into your home and deposit them onto your bed, your couch, and just about anywhere they like to curl up. The best solution is to keep cats indoors and check your dog regularly for ticks. Pet owners who are especially concerned may want to ask their vet about vaccinating their dog against Lyme as well as other preventive measures, such as insecticide-laced collars.

Choose deer-resistant plants. A single deer can transport hundreds of ticks, so it’s essential to keep Bambi away from your garden. A good starting point is to lean into landscaping options that deer won’t eat, such as bleeding hearts, lavender, mint, buttercups, and black-eyed Susans.

Build that dream patio. It’s simple—ticks inhabit grass and shallow woodlands, not bluestone patios with four-burner liquid propane grills and tiki bars. Bonus: the more patio, the less lawn to mow.

Rake the leaves. To survive winter, many ticks shelter in place under leaf litter. Deprive them of that pleasure by raking up in the fall and staying on top of yard work.

Check yourself. Whether you’ve been hiking through dunes or working in the garden, the best way to beat ticks is to look for them. Pay extra attention to your head and neck, where they can hide under hair.

Tick Check

Want to know if that tick you pulled off your back was carrying Lyme bacteria or other pathogens? Mail it to ­TickReport, a service run by UMass Amherst microbiologist Stephen Rich, and you’ll have an answer in 24 to 72 hours. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Make sure it is indeed a tick—adults and nymphs have eight legs—that you yanked off your body. Over the years, Rich has received everything from harmless beetles to sesame seeds.
  • TickReport can’t tell you whether you contracted a tickborne disease; rather, it identifies whether the tick that bit you was carrying Lyme bacteria or other dangerous pathogens. So don’t forgo seeking immediate medical attention if you’re concerned.
  • A Ziploc bag works fine for storing and sending a tick, and is preferred, says Rich, who once received a large mayonnaise jar containing a single tick.
  • Before slapping a stamp on your tick, check TickReport’s website (tickreport.com) to ensure the lab is accepting samples. As of press time, it was still on a temporary COVID-related hiatus.

Read more about New England’s fight against tick-borne illnesses.