There is one number you should remember when it comes to figuring out if deer ticks are active, 32, the number indicating if the temperature outside is freezing.
If it is above 32 degrees, it is considered to be above freezing, and at this temperature or higher, deer ticks can be active. According to some, 35 degrees is the magic number when it comes to ticks being active.
We know this is not good news. For so long, it was thought that deer ticks died during colder temperatures. To learn that they only become dormant is quite distressing. We want any insect that can cause life-altering, physically devastating illnesses like Lyme disease to die, die, die.
But, just because deer ticks can be active during colder months, you don’t have to stay locked up in your house to avoid an encounter with one of them.
Understand What Dormancy Means
When you hear the word dormant, you may think of hibernation, a unique form of dormancy.
Bears are an excellent example of something that hibernates. They spend months eating food and preparing themselves for winter. Once it arrives, bears enter a den or cave and fall into a sleep stage that can last for months. They do this by lowering their body’s temperature, metabolism, and breathing rate.
Hibernation allows animals to survive through colder months when food is not as easily accessed. They stay in hibernation no matter how often the temperatures vary outdoors.
Dormancy is a period of inactivation. It’s like a nap compared to hibernation. For deer ticks, dormancy means they put their bodies in an inactive mode temporarily. As soon as the temperature rises, they jump back into action. Ticks can become dormant and active many times throughout the colder months.
This means you can still get Lyme disease during the cold months of the year.
Still, you do not need to prepare to stay indoors during the winter if the temperature is above freezing. So, how can you stay safe?
Protect Your Body
No, you do not need to wear full-body armor to enjoy activities outside during the winter. On the other hand, you must cover parts of your body with the right clothing. Even for those who are hot, no matter what the temperature is outside, you must wear protection — no more wearing flip flops in mid-December to take a quick hike on a nearby trail.
Start with the top of your body, the head. If you are going outdoors in the winter, wearing a hat is recommended. A hat can pull double duty, retaining heat and protection from insects. The rest of your body should be covered as well, including your feet.
The idea is that your clothing provides a barrier between you and any insects, like the deer tick, that latch onto you when you are outside.
Protect Your Clothing
You can take protection one step further by protecting your clothing with a repellant. Many environmentally safe insect repellants on the market do an excellent job of deterring ticks from latching onto your clothing.
Look for EPA-registered products. Choose a repellant that was developed specifically for deer ticks.
Don’t just spray your shoes with a repellant. For best coverage, before you dress, take your clothes outside and spray them thoroughly with repellant. Also, pay attention to how long the repellant is effective. You may need to respray depending on how long you will be outdoors.
Keep Up With Landscaping
Even when it gets cold outside, grass can continue to grow when the weather fluctuates. Those spring-like temperatures that happen in late November can encourage lawn growth. Deer ticks live in tall, brushy grass areas.
Pay attention to your lawn and if the grass is high, mow it. If you have many trees in your yard that have all lost their leaves, get rid of the leaves. Ticks love leaf litter. Do what you can to eliminate thriving habitats for ticks.
Be Aware of the Location You Visit
If you know where you will be outdoors, you can better prepare. If you plan to ski at your favorite resort, understand what lies beneath the snow. Why? Because as soon as the snow begins to melt, temperatures have risen to a point where ticks can become active again.
If you are walking on a trail near your home, stay away from higher grass areas. Walk the center of the trails instead.
If you are flying cross-country to visit a relative, check to see if they are in a high-risk area for deer ticks. For example, if you fly from Arizona to Connecticut, you may want to investigate tick activity in that State, where Lyme disease was first discovered.
Protect Your Pets
If you have pets that go outside for any reason, you must protect them from the dangers of deer ticks. Pets can also get Lyme disease when bitten by a black-legged deer tick, even in the winter months.
Use FDA approved repellants for your pets. The symptoms of Lyme disease can be just as devastating for your pet, including joint swelling and pain, digestive issues, and more.
You could be the world’s best at protecting yourself from ticks, and yet somehow, one of those tiny devils finds its way onto your body. Even when this happens, there is still time to prevent getting Lyme disease through post-outdoor checks.
As soon as you re-enter your home from the outdoors, do a check of your clothing, body, and pets. Humans have thousands of body parts. You can check them all within a minute or two.
Check your pets’ body parts too.
Do not let a small insect control your outdoor activity. Take these steps to prevent a tick bite and the possibility of contracting Lyme disease and enjoy the outdoors all year.