The best way to avoid becoming infected with Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by ticks. Ticks crawl; they do not fly, jump or drop out of trees. Ticks are generally found in tall grass or leaf litter, usually no more than 1 metre above the ground. Ticks can be active for most of the year but most bites occur during the warmer months.
Pretreating outdoor clothing and equipment with permethrin is the most effective way to avoid being bitten. Permethrin is an insecticide and kills ticks on contact. Clothing can be treated at home with sprays or dips that are effective for 2-6 weeks and last through multiple washings. Permethrin when wet, is toxic to cats and aquatic life so take the necessary precautions to avoid harm during application. Once dried into the clothing or equipment there is no longer any risk. Some manufacturers sell permethrin treated clothing. When factory treated, these items will kill ticks through 70 washings.
Pets and companion animals that spend time outdoors should also be treated with appropriate insecticides and repellents. Many of these products are species specific. Check with a vet before using them.
When tick habitat can't be avoided, several strategies can be used to reduce the risk of bites.
Avoid walking through tall grass and leaf litter whenever possible.
Walk in the middle of paths to avoid ticks which might be in foliage next to the path.
Wear light coloured clothing so it is easier to spot ticks before they bite.
Using a tick repellent is a must. Choose one containing Saltidin (picaridin), DEET, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus. All are effective if properly applied and reapplied using the manufacturers instructions. Saltidin has been shown to be effective at repelling ticks for longer than the others.
On Your Return
Perform frequent and careful tick checks (looking and feeling all over your body) during and after exposure to tick habitats. This applies to pets too, because even treated animals can bring ticks indoors. Be systematic and use mirrors or a buddy to check hard to see areas. Remember that ticks are small so it will take more than a quick glance to find them.
Putting outdoor clothing in the dryer on a high heat will kill ticks that may be on them. Dry clothing needs 6 minutes but wet clothing needs a full hour.
Watch awareness videos to learn more.