Let’s start with you (and your family). Here’s what you need to do to Fight the Bite!
Wear protective clothing.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs.
- Cover crib, stroller, and baby carrier with mosquito netting.
- Treat items such as boots, pants, socks, and tents with permethrin or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
- Permethrin-treated clothing will protect you after multiple washings. See product information to find out how long the protection will last.
- If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions.
- Do not use permethrin products directly on skin.
- Permethrin products can be found in most drug stores, home improvement stores, and online.
Use insect repellent.
The most important thing to know about insect repellent is that you should use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. They are the only repellents proven to be safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Look for these ingredients to be safe: DEET, IR3535, Picaridin, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
Get the most out of your EPA-registered insect repellent when you follow these tips:
- Always follow the product label instructions, especially when applying repellent to children.
- Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, or cut or irritated skin.
- Adults should spray insect repellent onto their hands and then apply to a child’s face.
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
- Re-apply insect repellent as directed.
- Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
- If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
A few words on going “natural.”
- Natural insect repellents, or repellents not registered with EPA, are not known to be effective.
- To protect yourself against diseases like chikungunya, dengue, and Zika, the Centers for Disease Control and EPA recommend using an EPA-registered insect repellent.
- Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. Visit the EPA website to learn more.
Protect Your Home
Now that you know what to do when you leave the house or go outdoors, let’s review what you can do to make sure where you live is bite free. Inside and outside your home, there are several things you can do.
Remove standing water where mosquitoes could lay eggs.
- Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water. The list can include tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flower pot saucers, or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs in and near water.
- Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.
- For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
- Use larvicides to treat large containers of water that will not be used for drinking and cannot be covered or dumped out.
- If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, water is a big attraction for mosquitoes. More than that, it is what gives them life. Your goal? Get rid of all standing water.
Mosquitoes can lay eggs in as little as a teaspoon of water and can develop in any water that stands for more than 5 days.
Kill mosquitoes outside your home.
- Use an outdoor insect spray made to kill mosquitoes in areas where they rest.
- Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid areas like under patio furniture, or under the carport or garage.
- When using insecticides, always follow label instructions.
Keep mosquitoes out of your home.
- Install or repair window and door screens.
- Use window and door screens; do not leave doors propped open.
- Use air conditioning when possible.
Kill mosquitoes inside your home.
Despite your best efforts, mosquitoes can get into your home. Here are some tips to fighting the bite should they make it past the screens and doors.
- Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid places like under the sink, in closets, under furniture, or in the laundry room.
- Mosquitoes can be surprisingly difficult to identify and often confused with the crane fly (seen below). The crane fly is attracted by light and comes indoors, leading folks to think it’s time to grab the fogger and rid their home of mosquitoes.
- If you do suspect mosquitoes have invaded your home, we recommend you seek the assistance of a professional and call a licensed pest control agency.
Avoid tick-infested areas.
The best way to avoid a tick bite is to avoid the areas where ticks prefer to hang out. This is especially important in May, June and July – right about the time you want to get outdoors! Since we are in the most beautiful outdoor location around, when you are out in the woods or on a trail, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush and leaf litter
- Stick to the middle of the trail and stay away from the trail edges.
Use insect repellent.
- Similarly to mosquito prevention, you should use a spray repellent containing at least 20% DEET.
- Treat your clothes with permethrin, especially pants, socks and shoes. Permethrin kills ticks on contact.
- Permethrin can also be used on tents and some other camping gear.
Check yourself daily.
During tick season, it’s really important to stay on top of this one. Because ticks must usually be attached for at least a day before they can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, early removal can reduce the risk of infection.
- Always check for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard.
- Pay special attention under your arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly
- button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and on the hairline and scalp.
- Shower soon after being outdoors – within 2 hours – to more easily find ticks.
If after checking for ticks, you find one attached, here’s what to do.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin.
- If the mouthparts remain in the skin, do not be alarmed. Leave them alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, antiseptic, or soap and water.
A word on folk remedies…
While they may make for an interesting story, remedies such as using nail polish, petroleum jelly, or heat to make the tick detach from the skin are not recommended. Stick to the recommendations above and you should be fine.
Protect Your Home
Now that you know more about protecting yourself, let’s explore the four legged creatures that we may encounter that can bring ticks into our world without meaning to. Inside and outside your home, there are several things you can do.
Don’t forget your pets.
- Treat your dogs and cats for ticks as recommended by a veterinarian.
- Check your pets for ticks when they come indoors, especially in the summer months.
Create tick-safe zones in your yard.
Ticks need higher humidity levels to survive; they die quickly in drier environments.
- Remove leaf litter and clear tall grass and brush around houses and at the edges of lawns.
- Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and or play areas and wooded areas to create a dry barrier that is difficult for ticks to cross.
Keep the deer away.
When deer are abundant, ticks are as well. Here are a few tips to help:
- Remove plants that attract deer.
- Plant deer-resistant crops.
- Fences make great neighbors and great barriers for deer. They can discourage tick-infested deer from coming near homes.
Pesticide application to residential properties is an option, but one to be considered only when working with a licensed professional pest control expert and only when tick populations are at their local peaks.
Here’s what you need to know…
Mosquito-borne diseases are spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Here in Western North Carolina, there are three big ones that you need to be aware of: La Crosse encephalitis, West Nile virus, and eastern equine encephalitis. You’ve probably heard a lot about Zika, and if you’ve traveled to other parts of the world or country, the Chikungunya virus, dengue, and malaria. While you should be aware that these viruses exist, you are far more likely to be affected by the first three here in Western North Carolina and mosquitoes don’t bite just you. When they bite your dogs and horses, mosquitoes carry diseases and parasites like heartworm, West Nile virus and the Eastern equine encephalitis that can affect them as well.
Ticks love high or overgrown grass, brush and leaf litter. They can’t jump or fly. Instead, they climb tall grasses or shrubs and wait for their “host” to brush against them. In this case, that can be you, your dog or cat, or your kids. Like mosquitoes, ticks can also spread disease when they bite. Most of the tick-borne diseases in North Carolina are from a bacterial infection and can cause flu-like symptoms in people. They can be treated with antibiotics if caught early. Untreated, they may lead to serious health problems, including death in rare cases. Most notably, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) and Lyme disease bacteria are spread through the bite of infected ticks. Ticks that carry RMSF include the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, and the Rocky Mountain wood tick. The black-legged tick (or deer tick) can be found in wooded areas and is the culprit for Lyme disease here in western North Carolina. RMSF and other tick-borne diseases can be prevented by avoiding tick bites. Use insect repellent, remove ticks promptly and eliminate the places where ticks like to hang out around your home.