Surviving Summer Bugs: Precautions to prevent diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks`
Last year alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports of over 4,200 documented human cases of West Nile virus making for the second highest
Getting outside to enjoy a barbecue, tackle a summer project or simply take it easy is one of the great joys of this season. Unfortunately, some of nature's biggest pests are looking forward to your presence and can go beyond bugging you to spread dangerous diseases.
Last year alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports of over 4,200 documented human cases of West Nile virus making for the second highest total of cases in the U.S. so far. And the California Environmental Protection Agency has reported that Lyme disease is the leading tick-borne illness in the United States. Take a few simple precautions, however, and you can enjoy time in your yard and garden without being pestered.
Mosquitoes need only two things to breed: standing water and time (as little as a few days). We think of mosquitoes as breeding in large wet areas like swamps. But if your not careful managing much smaller bodies of water, infestaions just as big can gather in your backyard. Here are a few ways to discourage their presence:
CLEAN GUTTERS: Gutters clogged with debris allow stagnant water to form perfect "landing zones" for mosquito eggs. Gutters should be cleaned at least four times a year or install leaf guards to keep gutters dry.
COLLECT CONTAINERS: Survey your yard for anything that holds water, looking for empty flower pots, buckets, jars, wheelbarrows and old tires. Drill holes in the bottom of trash cans and recycling buckets to allow them to drain. Check kids' stuff like wading pools and sandboxes, and make sure any items covered by plastic tarps aren't becoming water-catchers. Also make a point of regularly draining air conditioner drip pans, and flush bird baths with clean water at least once a week.
PREVENT PUDDLES: Water puddles that last for even a few days can allow mosquitoes to hatch, so fill low areas in your yard where water tends to collect. Use clean fill dirt to build up these areas, and then cover with topsoil and a layer of grass seed, sod or mulch.
STAY AWAY: Perhaps the simplest way to avoid mosquitoes is to stay inside at dusk and dawn. Those are the times when females have a biological drive to seek a "host" (that's you!) from which to get blood to fertilize their eggs. By staying inside for the dawn and dusk hours, you'll be staying off the mosquitoes' menu.
Over the last century, nationwide deer populations have grown from 500,000 to over 28 million. And as deer have moved in on populated areas, they've brought the risk of deer ticks and resulting Lyme disease along with them. When you head outdoors, whether at home or in a nearby recreation area, be wise about preparations and remain alert to tick dangers:
DRESS SMART: Wear long pants, sleeves and socks, and tuck pants cuffs into boots or socks. Also be sure you're wearing light colors, which will help you to spot ticks more easily.
STAY ON TRACK: Stay to the center of hiking paths, and avoid grassy and marshy woodland areas. Ticks can't jump -- they simply hang out on brush and tall grasses waiting for you to pass and rub up against them.
INSPECT DAILY: Inspect yourself and your children for clinging ticks after being outdoors. Deer ticks are hard to see, with nymphs being dot-sized and adults smaller than a sesame seed. If you discover a tick attached and feeding, don't panic -- studies indicate that an infected tick doesn't usually transmit the Lyme organism during the first 24 hours. Remove the tick immediately using fine-tipped tweezers, and monitor your health closely after a bite, being alert for any signs and symptoms of a tick-borne illness.
USE REPELLENT: When in a tick-infested area, use of insect repellent is a good preventive measure; however, consider using a product designed to be applied to clothing rather than your skin.
Deer ticks are most active from April through October, so use caution when venturing into tick country. If you suspect Lyme disease or its symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the shows podcast or sign-up for Toms free weekly e-newsletter, visit the programs website.