As temperatures warm up and ticks become more active, how do we protect ourselves and our loved ones and reduce our fear of spending time outdoors? Here are five simple prevention steps that will not only reduce your contact with ticks and the fear factor, but are guaranteed to get you back outside doing the things that you love.

Skin

Repellents work by masking your scent, making it harder for insects and ticks to find you. There are many options on the market from products containing DEET (chemical name: N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) to natural and organic essential oils. Always read the labels, as some are clearly marked “not safe for children or pets."

Clothing

Wearing white clothing and tucking shirt into pants, pants into socks does not repel ticks; it only makes them easier to find.

Permethrin, a product derived from the chrysanthemum plant, kills ticks on contact, and is FDA-approved in over 2,500 household products and you can purchase this online, at the local hardware stores and do it yourself (lasts through seven to 10 washes).

For those with health or environmental concerns, you can purchase clothing already infused with a heavy concentration such as tops, pants, vests, socks, hats, gloves and blankets (lasts up to 70 washes).

Pets

There is no “one size fits all pets” when it comes to prevention. Talk to your vet about what options are available and appropriate for the age, breed and health condition of your pet. Dog Not Gone (a Skowhegan-based company) manufactures dog vests and collars, heavily infused with Permethrin, safeguarding your pet against tick exposure from nose to tail (for up 70 washes).

Home

We all clean our homes, but did you know that there are cleaning and laundry products containing ingredients such as rosemary, lemongrass, cedar wood and eucalyptus oils that natural repel ticks? Wow! I know, right? Companies like Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers contain ingredients that natural repel unwanted ticks and other insects while doing a great job of cleaning and brightening up our counters, floors and bathrooms! How cool is that!

Yard

From pest control companies to do-it-yourself products, you have options from chemical to natural/organic products to protect where you live and play. Free-range chickens and guinea hens are another option. Groom your yard. Keep the grass mowed short and leaf-liter to a minimum. Ticks thrive in moist areas.

Adding cedar wood oil or diatomaceous earth power to your gardens beds and borders also reduces tick populations.

Do tick tests!

When you come in from outdoors, remove your clothing, toss in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes and then check the following areas: under the arms, in/around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in your hair, between the legs/groin area and around your waistline.

Shower products containing rosemary, eucalyptus and tea tree oil repel and wash out any ticks you may have missed while checking your hair (Remember: tea tree oil is not safe for pets).

Test that tick!

If you do have a tick encounter, save the tick and have it tested so that you will know for certain if/what you have been exposed to (Maine residents only $15 ticks.umaine.edu/. Non-residents $50 tickreport.com, ticknology.org).

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Stay tick-free, readers, and enjoy outdoor activities.

Paula Jackson Jones is the president and co-founder of Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education (MLDSE). She can be reached at paula@mldse.org.