Tick and mosquito season seems to get worse each year. Tick season is generally from April to September but this can fluctuate depending on the weather.
Mosquitoes can emerge on the first warm days of spring as some can hibernate through the winter. Mosquito season lasts until the first frost in the northern US, though some can survive the first frosts. Over the winter, you may even find a mosquito in a closet.
The further south you go, the longer tick and mosquito season lasts. In the southern US, you can expect tick and mosquito season to last all year.
Black fly season lasts from late May into July in Maine and is dependent on the weather. Heat and water tend to bring out all of these pests in swarms.
When I was a kid we never worried about EEE, Lyme Disease, West Nile Disease or Zika. Mosquitoes left welts that itched. Black flies actually bite and can make you bleed. But that was about it.
Tick and Mosquito protection
As runners, we spend a lot of time outside in very little clothing. While we are running we are fairly safe from insects.When we stop for a drink, or at the end of a run, all of that exposed skin is prime for these insects.
While ticks do no fly, jump or drop from trees, they can hitch a ride if you brush up against a branch where they have been waiting. Ticks also live in leaf litter in the woods and mulch that you may have in your yard.
This CDC info-graphic provides good information to protect you and your family from mosquitoes. Click to open the pdf.
Tick and mosquito season safety
To avoid mosquito bites the CDC recommends wearing long sleeves and pants. For a runner this is impracticable. While many of us hate to use bug spray when we run the CDC recommends the following:
Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection. To optimize safety and effectiveness, repellents should be used according to the label instructions.
Most species of mosquitoes bite primarily during the day. This means even if you run during the day you are still susceptible to bites and infection.
If you plan to hang out after a run, bring bug spray to apply after your run. You may also want to put on pants and a long sleeved shirt. If you are in the woods or near water, expect the swarm to be pretty thick and plan accordingly.
I have run several races along The Charles River in Boston. At these races I see lots of swatting and slapping going on. Some runners bring a can of spray and it usually gets passed around.
You know that go bag in the trunk of your car full of running gear? Toss a can of spray in there for the summer. As long as you avoid your face and don’t get much on your hands, you should be good.
It’s a small price to pay to enjoy running in the summer.
This year we have a new disease to worry about, the Zika virus. So far the CDC reports – Local mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus has been reported in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. No mosquito transmitted cases have been reported in any of the 50 US States.
Also from the CDC:
What we know
- No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease (Zika).
- Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites (see below).
- Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime.
- Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.
Steps to prevent mosquito bites
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Use repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol.
Use this CDC link for ways to control mosquitoes in your yard and inside of your home.
While men and women who are not and do not plan to become pregnant are at little apparent risk, more needs to be learned about this virus. The long-term effects on healthy adults and children have not been widely studied. So while you may feel you have nothing to be worried about, preventing or minimizing exposure to Zika is still a good idea for everyone.
Into the woods
Trail runners will be exposed to more mosquitoes and ticks than urban or road runners. There is more habitat and shelter for ticks and mosquitoes. The woods also reduce breezes that might keep mosquitoes away from you when you stop running. The woods are where the deer and deer ticks live.
In the woods, ticks are the bigger problem.
As discussed earlier, ticks do not fly or jump. Generally they will crawl up your leg or latch onto you when you brush against a bush or branch where they have been waiting for you.
To avoid ticks, repellent is recommended and so are long sleeves and pants. Since ticks need to come into contact with you, avoid brushing against bushes or low hanging branches.
Since most runners will not wear long sleeves and pants on a hot summer run, your best bet is repellent and avoiding contact with bushes and branches as much as possible.
When taking a break after a run, try not to sit directly on the ground. This isn’t a guarantee that you wont pick up a tick, but at least you wont be sticking your butt into their home!
The American Lyme Disease Foundation has a very informative site on all types of ticks. They also discuss the other diseases carried by ticks. This CDC page has a map series that shows the spread of Lyme disease and links to additional resources and information.
Enjoy the great summer running weather, but take a few precautions to protect your health.
Run well my friends!
© 2016 andrew nagelin