Hidden in the grasses, mosses and leaves, ticks spot their prey by the heat they give off and drop on them to pump their blood. Their bites are painless and often go unnoticed, but they can be frightening. Many ticks indeed carry pathogenic viruses and bacteria, including borrelia responsible for Lyme disease. More than 60,000 new cases were diagnosed last year in France, against 44,600 in 2017 according to the Public Health France agency. If this infection is not treated quickly, it can cause severe disorders: joint pain, partial paralysis, memory loss, intense fatigue… It is therefore better to be extra careful in order to keep ticks at bay all summer.
Clear your garden
Ticks do not swarm only in woods and forests. 29% of bites now occur in parks and private gardens. Poorly maintained plots are the most at risk because these mites love tall grass, dead leaves and areas of brush. To avoid their proliferation, it is therefore necessary to mow the lawn regularly and let it dry completely between two waterings. As a precaution, also prune trees that are too thick, especially if your land is next to a forest. Also remember to seal the stone walls to prevent the entry of small rodents (field mice, voles, etc.), which often carry ticks. And deworm your pets (cats, dogs) which are also likely to bring unwanted people into your garden.
Plant repellent plants
Some plants attract ticks, others naturally repel them. Instead of abusing chemical insecticides, you can plant garlic and aromatic herbs (rosemary, bay leaf, mint, melissa, etc.) whose smell keeps these small parasites away. Some flowers are also good tick repellants, such as wormwood, lemongrass geranium and chrysanthemums. On the other hand, forget the genets: ticks are particularly fond of them.
Wear covering clothing
To walk in the forest or to garden, it is best to opt for light-colored clothing in order to better identify ticks clinging to the fabric. These must cover the entire body: long sleeves, pants tight at the ankles and tucked into socks and closed shoes. Also tie up your hair or wear a hat to protect the scalp. An ultra effective outfit to block the road to ticks!
Opt for tea tree essential oil, anti-ticks
A study by the Brazilian University of Santa Catarina published in 2014 in the specialized journal Experimental and Applied Acarology has proven that tea tree essential oil is acaricidal. It kills nymphs and makes adult ticks amorphous, reducing the chance of bites. Before going for a walk in the most infested regions (Alsace, Limousin, Auvergne, Rhône-Alpes, Normandy and Ile-de-France), apply to the exposed skin areas 3 drops of tea tree diluted in one tsp. to c. sweet almond oil. In the evening, take an anti-tick shower: 20 drops of essential oil in a 100 ml bottle of shower gel. If your dog has ticks, also use the tea tree to deworm your home: spray cushions, sofas and curtains with a mixture of alcohol and essential oil (60 drops of essential oil in a 15 ml spray filled with 70 ° alcohol).
Bet on white vinegar
Ticks are annoyed by the smell of vinegar. Brushing your dog with a glove dipped in diluted white vinegar (1 tablespoon in 150 ml of water) protects him a little against bites. You can also spray household vinegar on your clothes for prevention. But if you are camping or hiking in a region at risk, a more radical strategy is required: treat your clothes and equipment (backpack, tent, mosquito nets, etc.) with a permethrin-based repellent.
Stay on the trails
During tick infestation (June to October), do not venture into meadows and undergrowth, especially if they are colonized with ferns. Take only the marked paths. Do not take a nap or picnic directly on the grass. Provide a clear sheet or blanket to avoid contact with the floor.
Bring a tick puller
When you return from your walk, carefully inspect your body to spot any intruders clinging to your skin. Take a special look at your scalp, back of neck, temples and behind the ears, where many ticks live. Do not forget to examine your armpits, the folds of the groin and the back of the knees either, because these parasites prefer slightly damp areas of thin skin. If you spot a mite clinging to your skin, dislodge them as soon as possible, but not just any old way! To avoid odds, it is better to always have a tick remover in your bag or pocket. The ideal is even to have several of different sizes (Tick Twister® set) in order to be able to remove both adults engorged with blood and nymphs of less than 2 mm, now responsible for the majority of infections due to ticks.
Adopt a hen
Insectivorous birds are great lovers of ticks. Letting a hen, a guinea fowl or a peacock roam in your garden thus drastically reduces the populations of parasitic mites. In an hour, a hen can peck up to 300 ticks, according to researchers at the International Center for Insect Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya.
“The tick must be removed entirely and not pulled out”
Gabrielle Gross, pharmacist: “You should not pound a tick with your fingers or attempt to remove it with tweezers. You risk tearing the parasite’s abdomen and leaving its rostrum (head) buried under the skin. do not apply any product on it, especially no alcohol or ether.The attacked animal would then regurgitate by reflex of saliva, which increases the risk of transmission of bacteria the cause of Lyme disease. To extract a tick safely, a tick puller is essential. Gently slide it over the skin so as to grip the tick without compressing it, then perform a rotary motion. The animal will detach from itself after one or two turns, without pain. The direction of rotation does not matter. Then disinfect the skin with an antiseptic spray. ”
Lyme disease: when to worry?
Once the tick is detached, the bite area should be monitored. If a red ring-shaped spot – an erythema migrans – appears 3 to 30 days later, you must make an appointment with your doctor because this skin manifestation reveals the beginning of Lyme disease. This is easily treated if it is taken care of at an early stage (3 weeks of antibiotics). But this symptom is not always present. A fever, ganglia, immense fatigue, headaches and heart palpitations should also alert, even 6 months later.
The smart app
If you’ve been bitten by a tick, report it. A free smartphone app – Tick Signaling – was created by INRAE to monitor the progress of the plague and improve prevention. Users benefit from post-bite information and follow-up. You can also send the mite that stung you to the scientists for study. Available on iPhone and Android.