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Watch out for those ticks

Fall means cooler temperatures are on the way, making it the perfect time to spend more time in your yard or garden. However, more time outdoors may mean being exposed to disease carrying ticks. Here are a few tips to minimizing the risks to you and your family. Ticks are present year-round in Florida, but certain species are more active in the fall. The Lone Star tick is the most common in our area and is easy to recognize, as females have a light colored spot on their back. These ticks bite humans and are known to carry and transmit southern tick associated rash illness and erlichiosis. If you have dogs outdoors, there are two species of ticks you need to watch for. The American dog tick is most often found on dogs, but they will bite humans, as well. Children and dogs can become quite sick if one of these pests attaches himself to the spine or the base of the skull. These ticks excrete a toxin that causes paralysis until it is removed.
Brown dog ticks are also common in Florida yards, but typically do not bite humans. Your dog's health is at risk if bitten by a brown tick, however. These ticks are known to be carriers of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a disease most often seen in the southwest portion of the United States. Ticks can also attach themselves to large livestock animals. Keep a good check on their ears for Gulf Coast ticks, which are similar to American dog ticks, just a little larger. There are ways to reduce the likelihood of ticks in your yard or garden. The Centers for Disease Control recommends creating a tick-free environment with landscaping techniques. Since ticks love high grass, mowing often will keep them at bay. Removing leaf litter, clearing tall grass close to your home and throwing away trash will also reduce infestations. If you have a wooded area near your yard, it is a good idea to create a barrier with mulch or rocks to keep them from entering your yard. In addition to landscaping techniques, you should take a few steps to prevent tick bites by wearing protective clothing. When outdoors it is wise to wear long sleeved shirts, long pants and closed-toed shoes. Wearing light colors will also help you spot ticks more easily. There are a variety of repellent products designed to reduce tick bites. These should be applied to any areas of uncovered skin to be effective. While most people do not have serious problems after a tick bite, some do get sick. In recent years, Lyme disease has been prevalent in Florida. According to the University of Florida, IFAS Extension, 30 percent of all U.S cases of Lyme disease were reported from Florida from 1999 to 2008. If you are bitten by a tick, watch for symptoms such as fatigue, headache, fever, joint pain and a bulls-eye rash around the bite site. Other diseases can occur, as well so it's a good idea to see your doctor if you feel sick after being bitten by any type of tick. These tips will help reduce tick infestations, keeping you and your family healthy and happy. So get out , enjoy the cooler fall temperatures our state offers. It just might be the perfect time to make some exciting changes to your landscaping.