Golf Courses Are Hotspots for Ticks

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A round of golf may put you at risk for a tick bite — golf courses are prime habitats for the tiny bloodsucking creatures, experts say.

That's because people on golf courses scare away the animals that usually prey on small rodents, so these tick-harboring rodents flourish, said Gregory Owens, of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College.

In addition, ticks like to feed at the boundaries between the woods and open spaces — exactly the kind of settings found in golf courses, Owens said.

"Golf courses are the perfect habitat for ticks," Owens said. [10 Important Ways to Avoid Tick Bites]

Moreover, golfers may not always take the proper precautions to avoid bites. In a small study, Owens and his colleagues surveyed 29 golfers at a course in Orange County, New York, where Lyme disease (an infection carried by certain ticks) is native.

Nearly three-quarters of the golfers said they had ever found a tick on themselves after golfing, and 24 percent said they had been diagnosed with Lyme disease in the past — much higher than the rate in the general population in that area, which was 0.2 percent.

Still, about a third of the golfers said they did not check themselves for ticks after golfing, and 72 percent did not use insect repellent while golfing, the study found. People who'd had Lyme disease were no more likely to practice tick-prevention behaviors than those who'd never had the disease.

Because the study was small, more research is needed to see how common tick-prevention behaviors are among golfers, Owens said. Golfers could be targeted as a group that should receive information about tick-bite prevention, he said.

The study was presented this week at the American Public Health Association meeting in New Orleans.

To prevent tick bites while golfing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people use insect repellent that contains between 20 and 30 percent DEET, look for ticks on their body, take a shower as soon as they get back from golfing and put clothing in the dryer on high heat.

Ticks are most active between April and September, but it's important to take preventive measures year-round, the CDC says.

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.