7 Tick Safety Tips
Protect yourself from tick-borne illnesses this summer
May is one of the worst months for ticks, and as the weather warms up and we get outside to enjoy it, the risk of getting a tick bite increases. Tick-borne illnesses are on the rise and NH saw 1,373 documented cases of Lyme last year. The Centers for Disease Control says there are over 300,000 new cases of Lyme every year and it is epidemic in New England. Another disease you may have not heard of, transmitted by ticks, is the Powassan virus. Although the Centers for Disease Control say there have only been 2 cases in NH reported, there is concern among health professionals because the virus has the potential to cause serious neurological damage. There are also a host of other co-infections that can come along with the tick bite like Babesiosis and Anaplasma, that have their onw set of unpleasant symptoms.
The black-legged tick, or deer tick, has several phases of growth- egg, larva, nymph and adult - and according to the Centers for Disease Control, the nymph stage, which is most active from May-October, is the stage where the bite is most likely to transmit Lyme or other illnesses. You may be bitten and not see it and not have the "bulls eye" rash, but that tiny poppy seed sized critter can pack a whopping dose of sickness.
Not everyone, including me, gets the "bulls eye" rash but still contracts Lyme
Having had Lyme, I can tell you it is no fun, but it does not keep me from going outside. I've hiked a lot over the years, but the times that I actually found ticks on me were when I was not expecting it. Once was sunbathing at Silver Lake and another time working in my garden. I always took precautions when hiking, but we sometimes forget that ticks are not just out in the woods - they can be right in your yard! Anywhere that a deer goes is fair game for ticks.
So my point is...yes, go outside, but do it safely! Here are a few tips:
- Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts - especially working in your yard or garden where the critter can crawl up your arm as you weed (happened to me!) Tuck your pants into your socks to create a barrier
- Wear light colored clothing so you can spot ticks easier
- Use a repellant of at least 20% DEET or an equivalent strong natural repellant if you are against chemicals. There are some herbal mixtures that seem to work quite well and some people I know make their own even. Use Permethrin 0.5% based sprays on clothing only!
- Avoid tall grasses and vegetation where ticks thrive
- Don't sit on the ground or stone walls where ticks can easily climb onto you
- When you come in from outside, shower, check yourself or your kids for ticks, and especially check the scalp and other hard to see areas
- Wash the clothing you were wearing right away. If you can't, putting the clothes in the dryer can kill ticks because they will not last the heat.
A really great resource for information, where my friend Nancy volunteers, is the Dean Center for Tick Borne Illnesses in Charlestown, MA. The Dean Center for Tick Borne Illness, If you do get Lyme or suspect you have it, they are the leading center in the US for research and treatment.
Be safe this summer - you CAN enjoy the outdoors if you take precautions, and remember, not ever tick has an illness or is even a deer tick. The chance of you getting bitten are slim and if you are smart about how you prepare yourself for the outdoors, chances are you can enjoy yourself safely.
For more information go to https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/ and http://han.vermont.gov/prevent/zoonotic/tickborne/ticks.aspx