RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—In the Northeastern United States, the place where you're most likely to be bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease is not in the woods, but in your own backyard. Fortunately, research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that some of the best ways to prevent Lyme disease are free and practical—good news for people who are leery of using chemical insect repellents like DEET or permethrin. While they are effective, chemical repellants pollute waterways and have been shown to cause behavioral problems in animal studies.
THE DETAILS: Yale researchers focused their study in 24 Connecticut communities where the disease is endemic, looking at ways personal protection, landscaping, and chemical controls may help prevent Lyme disease in a backyard setting. They interviewed 349 people with Lyme, and an equal number of healthy people, asking questions about insect-repellent use, performing tick checks, and even the residents’ yards.
The two personal-protection measures that helped ward off Lyme disease were performing tick checks within 36 hours of spending time in the yard, and showering or taking a bath within two hours of being in the yard. Contrary to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, wearing light-colored clothing, long pants, and tucking your pants into your socks did not seem protective, at least in a backyard setting. But the data did show that having any type of fencing around the yard lowered risk of contracting Lyme disease. The reason for that is unclear; possibly the fences keep tick-carrying deer out of yards, or keep people away from woody edges of their property, where ticks are more likely to be found. More research is needed before fencing is recommended to prevent Lyme disease, the study authors say.