BLAST Prevention Program

The Power of Prevention

by Janet Jemmott

Sign at the Montauk Lighthouse in Long Island, NY

If you're like many people with tick-borne disease, your life has been irrevocably altered. The beauty of the natural environment may now be held at arm's length. I haven’t been in the woods in close to six years despite the fact that I live surrounded by woods and I find them inspiring. I watch their changes from the safety of man-made surfaces. But the one activity that I couldn't give up is growing my own food. I grow greens, vegetables, and berries. Because I treasure fresh food, I've adapted by gardening in a smarter way. I wear socks and a sweatshirt that are embedded with permethrin. I spray my boots, I spray my gardening gloves, and I spray my white cotton pants. After spending time in the garden, I peel my clothes off as soon as I get back into the house. I throw my clothing in an electric dryer for 20 minutes on high. If they need to be washed, I still dry them first, since ticks can survive immersion in water, as well as hanging out in a damp pile of clothes. Clothing that’s professionally treated with permethrin will be effective for the life of the garment or approximately 70 washings. If you spray your clothing with permethrin, the repellent will last five to six washings. Spraying your outdoor shoes at the beginning of each month should suffice. Please use carefully and precisely. Permethrin is not a repellent, it's an insecticide. Use repellents containing at least 20 percent DEET on your exposed skin and reapply after a few hours. And don't forget to check yourself for ticks. Bathe or shower within two hours following outdoor activity. The BLAST prevention program serves as a critical reminder to help us keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Also, consider reviewing our guide to making your property less tick-friendly.

BLAST Tickborne Disease Prevention Program

Lyme Connection's tick-borne disease prevention efforts focus on the BLAST Lyme Disease Prevention Program. This nationally recognized educational effort was created by the Ridgefield Health Department in 2008.The program is based on peridomestic Lyme disease prevention research conducted in Connecticut. The BLAST acronym – Bathe after outdoor activity, Look for Ticks and rashes, Apply repellent, Spray the yard and Treat pets - highlights five key evidence-based steps that may reduce the risk of tick-borne illnesses.

Offered free at health fairs, schools and community events, the program engages health professionals and trained educators to teach prevention and early symptom identification.Thanks to the generosity of the Western CT Council of Governments (WestCog) the program will be expanding throughout Fairfield County in 2017. 

Click HERE to learn more about the BLAST prevention program.

Dr. Neeta Connally

BLAST Prevention Program Scientific Advisor  Dr. Neeta Connally recently spoke with Lyme Connection newsletter editor Janet Jemmott about current research and best practices for avoiding illness. Click HERE to read the complete interview.

Join us at the Ridgefield Library for Dr. Connally's Saturday morning prevention program: Protecting Your Family from Tick-borne Diseases, Saturday, May 6, 10:00 am - 11:30 am. Registration is suggested.


What method is recommended for removing ticks?

The CDC recommends using fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.

Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

  Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible--not waiting for it to detach.

Have Questions about ticks?  Check Out the Tick Management Handbook

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station's Tick Management Handbook is an integrated guide for homeowners, pest control operators, and public health officials for the prevention of tick-associated disease. You'll find everything you need to know about personal and yard protection. Click HERE to read the recently revised edition.

Do you know where to bring a tick for testing in Connecticut?

Your Health Department.

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station will test engorged blacklegged (deer) ticks that have been removed from humans for the presence of disease-causing agents for Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis.  This service is offered to Connecticut residents for free.  All ticks should be submitted through your local health department.  Note that CAES will only test blacklegged ticks that have ingested human blood.  Information provided by CAES can be useful for your physician when reviewing your history and making a diagnosis but remember that a positive tick does not mean that the pathogen was transmitted.  Although the turn-around time for tick results is short, you should be sure to see a healthcare provider if you experience any symptoms prior to receiving tick results. Last year, 32% of ticks tested were positive for Lyme disease. LEARN MORE


Need help picking your repellents?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has tip sheets based on their extensive research. Click HERE.  A new EWG guide this year focuses specifically on the Zika virus. Click HERE. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created a repellent search tool that guides you to products based on insect, protection time and active ingredient. Click HERE. EPA top tips for using these products safely are listed HERE. 

Top tips include:

Always read and follow label directions

Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing. Do not use under clothing.

Do not apply near eyes and mouth, and apply sparingly around ears.

Never use repellents over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.

Do not spray in enclosed areas.

Do not allow children to handle this product, and do not apply to children's hands. When using on children, apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.

After returning indoors, wash your child’'s treated skin and clothes with soap and water or bathe.

According to the label, oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under the age of three. Other ingredients do not have an age restriction.


Will washing kill ticks on clothing?

The CDC has just completed a study to determine the optimal drying times and washing temperatures to kill ticks. Dry clothes should be spun in high heat for 6 minutes, wet clothes for 50. Water temperature ≥54 °C (≥130 °F) is optimal to kill ticks.Read the study results HERE.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Photo: Skip Dickstein

BLAST In The News

The BLAST program is staffed by trained volunteer educators. If you are interested in teaching your community about preventing tick-borne diseases, please consider volunteering. If you would like to invite us to your health fair or schedule a BLAST program for your school, company or community organization, please contact:

Jennifer Reid, Director

BLAST Tickborne Disease Prevention Program

Ridgefield Health Dept., 66 Prospect St., Town Hall Annex, Ridgefield, CT 06877

203-431-7006 (o)   Office hours by appointment