Should You Use Bug Spray to Prevent Tick Bites in the Winter?

Believe It or Not, Louisville Ticks Might Be More Active Than You Think

Ah, wintertime — kids get a vacation from school, you might take some time off work, and everyone can stop worrying about warm-weather pests like ticks, right? Well, although you and your family might get a winter break, ticks don’t actually have a fully dormant season. Tick activity is based on temperature, not season, which means they’re still a threat to you and your pets — and everyone’s health — all year round, so don’t let your guard down just yet.

Although peak tick season generally occurs during the warmer months, many Kentuckians are surprised to discover that ticks are actually most active during October and November. They know winter is coming, and they try to stock up on meaty meals (like you) before food sources become scarcer. But even winter itself, although it slows them down, doesn’t eliminate the threat completely.

Ticks freeze in place — literally — when the temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but as soon as the ground thaws and the air temperatures warm above 35, they start moving again. That means that as welcome as so-called “Indian summers” can be, they bring with them an increase in tick activity, which is especially concerning in more rural areas where ticks generally flourish.

A Potentially Deadly Game of Hide And Seek

The threat of ticks doesn’t just come from how annoying it is to get bitten (or how difficult the little suckers are to remove once they become fully embedded). Ticks are vectors for a variety of illnesses, most notably Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a dangerous and sometimes fatal infection that affects humans and animals.

If left untreated, Lyme disease can result in irreparable physical and neurological impairment. It only takes about 36 to 48 hours from the time a tick attaches to transmit Lyme disease to a host, meaning it’s imperative to catch tick bites early and remove the tick properly. If you live in an area where ticks abound (which basically means all of Kentuckiana), there are several preventative measures you can take to avoid tick bites.

Protect Yourself From Ticks Year-Round

If venturing into the outdoors in weather above 35 degrees, first apply insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin. Wear light-colored clothing (which makes ticks easier to spot) and long pants tucked into your socks. Stay on trails and designated pathways, avoiding tall grassy areas or off-trail areas with heavy underbrush. Be sure to check for ticks before settling into the house — and be sure to take all of these precautions for children and pets, too.

As an added safeguard, toss any clothes, blankets, towels, or other linens you were using outdoors in a dryer before running them through the washing machine to kill any hitchhikers you may have brought in with you (the washer alone won’t do the job). Finally, check everyone’s bodies (especially your pets!) for ticks, being sure to comb through hair (literally, with a comb) and looking in creviced areas like armpits and between fingers and toes.

As we come around the corner toward warmer months, take control of your yard this spring — Tell Us What’s Bugging You today.