It’s summer–the season to fire up the grill, fill up the cooler, and invite family and friends over for a picnic or other get-together in your home’s yard. To stay safe and keep the outside fun going, however, you’ll want to avoid inviting two potential visitors: mosquitoes and ticks.
Too many pesky insects can ruin a good time, and although most bug bites are annoying but harmless, some mosquitoes and ticks can spread dangerous diseases, such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Fortunately, you can take steps to help prevent mosquitoes and ticks from joining a yard party this summer, and to keep you and your family safer.
Make Your Yard Less Attractive
Mosquitoes lay eggs in or near standing water. To help eliminate mosquito breeding grounds, either empty and scrub, turn over, or cover outside items that hold water—including buckets, planters, birdbaths, flowerpots and trash containers—once a week. Also throw out things you don’t use that can collect water, such as tires or old toys. Add chemicals that kill mosquito eggs, called larvicides, to water that won’t be used for drinking and can’t be covered or dumped out, such as a pond or fountain.
Because many types of ticks live in areas with woods, bushes or high grass, it’s important to keep your home’s yard tidy. Clear bushes, tall grass and fallen leaves from around your home, and mow the lawn often. Also use wood chips or gravel to separate your patio or play equipment from wooded or brushy areas. For even more protection, consider applying tick control products to your yard. You can do this yourself or hire a pest control company.
Use Insect Repellent
Insect repellent makes it harder for mosquitoes and ticks to find you. Use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered repellent with one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Always follow the product instructions, and don’t use repellent on babies under two months old; instead, cover their stroller or car seat with mosquito netting. If you have pets, talk with your veterinarian about the best way to protect them from ticks.
Cover Up Your Skin
To keep mosquitoes and ticks away from exposed skin, cover up as much as possible. When practical, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks. Wearing light-colored clothing will also allow you to see ticks more easily.
Check for Ticks
After spending time outside, check everybody in the family, including pets, for ticks. Search the entire body, especially under arms, in and around ears, behind knees, around the waist, and in and around hair. If you find a tick, remove it right away. Use tweezers—not your fingers or a hot match—to properly remove the entire insect. Talk to a doctor if you or a family member gets sick after a tick bite.