Although it’s hard to escape these pests altogether, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from mosquito and tick bites — and the illnesses they can cause. The Department of Public Health (DPH) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offer strategies for keeping ticks and mosquitoes away and provide steps to take if you get bitten.
Illnesses Spread by Mosquitoes and Ticks
Mosquito and tick bites are more than just annoying — they may pose health risks too. Mosquito and tick bites can cause serious illnesses, so it’s important to take precautions to keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe. Some diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks in Massachusetts include:
Although right now it’s extremely unlikely that you could get Zika virus from a mosquito bite in Massachusetts, you could be at risk if you’re traveling to an area with an ongoing outbreak. Pregnant women and their sexual partners, as well as couples planning on becoming pregnant within six months, should take extra care because Zika can cause birth defects. You can learn more about the current advice for pregnant women and their partners who may be planning travel to Zika-affected areas on DPH’s blog.
Keeping Mosquitoes and Ticks Away from Your Home
With some basic maintenance, you can make your yard and home less inviting for these pests and reduce your risk of getting bitten.
In Your Yard
- Keep grass, shrubs, and other plants cut and trimmed, since ticks are drawn to long, unmown grass and leafy areas. Ticks also love decomposing leaves and brush, so remove them from your yard.
- Keep wood piles and bird feeders off the ground and away from your home, and don’t feed your pets outside. This will make your yard less attractive to rodents that can carry ticks.
- If you choose to use a pesticide in your yard, make sure to hire a licensed applicator.
- Create a three-foot barrier of mulch or gravel between your yard and wooded areas to keep ticks away.
- Get rid of standing water in gutters, buckets, tires, plastic covers, and other containers to remove mosquito breeding habitats. Be sure to change the water in birdbaths, rain barrels, and fountains at least once a week.
In Your House
- Patch holes in screens and cover gaps in doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out.
Avoiding Mosquito and Tick Bites
In addition to keeping pests out of your yard and home, be sure to protect yourself from tick bites and mosquito bites.
- Use an EPA-approved mosquito repellent and tick repellent. You should also talk to your veterinarian about ways to control ticks on your pets.
- When outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and tuck in your clothes to keep ticks away from your skin. Choose light-colored clothes so you can spot ticks more easily.
- Prevent mosquito bites by limiting your outdoor activity between dusk and dawn and when risk from disease is higher in your area. You can check your area’s risk level using DPH’s map.
- Cover playpens and baby carriers with netting outside to protect young children from mosquito bites.
- Do a tick check after you have been outside. Ticks are so small that they can often look like new freckles. Be sure to look everywhere, including your armpits, behind your ears and knees, between your toes, and along your hairline and the back of your neck.
What to Do if You Are Bitten by a Tick
If you notice that you have been bitten by a tick, make sure to:
- Remove ticks safely from your skin as soon as possible. Grasp the tick firmly with a pair of tweezers close to your skin, and pull straight up without twisting or turning. Clean the bite area with soap and water. Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Call your doctor if you start to feel sick or notice a rash around the bite area.
Follow these tips so your family can enjoy a safe, bug bite-free summer in Massachusetts.
Do you have questions about tick or mosquito safety? Ask us! Tweet @MassGov or comment below.
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