Before the most recent heat wave hit us with full force, I tried to get some gardening done. While I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with pulling weeds and making my yard more attractive, I do not enjoy being exposed to poison ivy or feeling like I've got creepy, crawling, Lyme disease-carrying ticks crawling all over me. These are some of the reasons that, when I garden, I look like someone on the fashion police's "Most Wanted" poster:
- I keep my head covered in a bandana
- I wear long sleeves tucked into my gardening gloves
- I have my shirt tucked in my pants
- I have my pants tucked inside socks
All of these precautions make it harder for my skin to come in contact with poison ivy and for ticks, should they end up on my body, to find entry to my skin.
Another precaution? Stripping off my gardening clothes as soon as I get indoors, throwing them in the laundry, and washing those clothes on the hottest setting possible. This way if any ticks have grabbed a ride on my clothes, I can feel confident that they'll be washed away in the washing machine.
Additionally, I shower immediately—including washing my hair and soaping up my skin with an oil-busting dishwashing detergent, such as Dawn. That's more for poison ivy prevention, since it is the oil from the poison ivy leaves that gets on your skin and causes the rash. If you can remove that oil soon after contact, you've lessened your chances of getting that poison ivy rash.
As far as tick prevention goes, there's a new reason to worry about ticks and disease—there is a new disease beyond Lyme now associated with ticks. Called babesiosis, it's a parasite that lives within your red blood cells and can be fatal.
Here are other tips to keep ticks off of you and out of your garden:
- Keep your lawn mowed. Because mice, deer, and other creatures that scurry through your yard are likely bringing in the ticks, if you keep your grass low and your scrubs trimmed, there is less of a chance of a tick dropping off its "host" onto your greenery—where it could end up on you.
- Be wary of woodpiles and stone walls. Ticks love to hide in the dark of woodpiles and stone walls. So think about that the next time you're stacking wood or out hiking and stop to rest on a stone wall.
- Treat your animals with tick repellant. Most treatments for ticks also include a repellant against fleas, and because generic versions are available today, flea and tick treatment doesn't have to be expensive. Keep your dog and cat treated on a regular basis so if a tick does latch on to your pet, it will end up a dead tick and not one looking for a new place to feed—your skin!
- Use natural repellents. Interested in owning some tick killers that will also give you free eggs? Many people bring chickens and hens into their yards as a way of keeping the tick population down. Of course, you need to make sure that your neighborhood zoning allows for keeping poultry. Another natural repellant? Certain plants. If you're updating plants in your garden anyway, consider planting lavender, garlic, certain kinds of chrysanthemum, sage, and eucalyptus.
Now if you'll excuse me: writing this piece has left me feeling itchy. Even though I know there are no ticks on me right now, I think I'm going to go jump in the shower, just in case.
Here are some additional tick disease prevention tips.