Summer only comes once a year, and for those that had to endure the harsh winter climate, it is a time to rejoice and take in the heat. But with idyllic weather comes the increased risk of contracting Lyme disease or other tickborne illnesses. If you are an avid lover of golf, don’t let this dissuade you from brushing the dust off your golf clubs and making a beeline to your favourite course. However, there are some tips to keep in mind to ensure you return home healthy and disease free.

According to Gregory Owens of New York Medical College, “golf courses are the perfect habitat for ticks”, and there is plenty of research to back this theory up. Owens and his fellow researchers conducted a study in 2014, finding that a staggering number – nearly 25 percent – of golfers had been diagnosed with Lyme disease in the past, compared to 0.2 percent of the general population in Orange County, New York.

So what makes golf courses such a hotspot for ticks? Owens notes that “people on golf courses scare away the animals that usually prey on small rodents, so these tick-harboring rodents flourish”. The white footed mouse in particular is a popular vector for ticks. In addition, while golf courses are generally well maintained, golfers spend a lot of time searching for lost balls in long grass where ticks happen to flourish.

While statistics prove there is a correlation between golfing and contracting Lyme disease, there are several ways to combat the pests that just won’t go away. Here are some tips provided by the Global Lyme Alliance, one of the world leaders in spreading awareness of tick-borne diseases:

Be cautious when searching for lost balls: While it may be in your competitive nature to find a ball shot off course, dropping a new ball could be in your best interest, as ticks thrive in long grass.

Avoid shade: Ticks prefer dwelling in shady and humid environments, so consider avoiding these areas as much as possible. Make sure you apply sunscreen prior to heading out to the course, and dress appropriately to prepare for the heat.

Use tick repellent: Depending on your personal preferences, there are a variety of repellants to consider, DEET and icaridin which is also known as  picaridin are recommended by Health Canada. For those opting for a more natural repellant, Repel Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus 30% is also highly rated. Spraying your shirts, golf shoes, and golf bags is recommended in order to protect yourself as much as possible.

Aftercare: Upon returning home from your day at the course, it is recommended to immediately remove all clothing and place it in the dryer for a full-heat cycle. This is because the heat and dryness will kill any and all ticks on your clothing. Thoroughly showering is also important to ensure there are no ticks remaining on your body.

The range of many tick species continue to spread throughout North America so golfers need to be increasing vigilant to avoid Lyme disease and other debilitating tick-borne illnesses.