Tick, Ticks, Ticks

Image of an adult deer tick on a leaf. Rarely can you see them this easily due to their tiny size.

They're everywhere this year! What to do?

Ticks. Tick. Ticks. Don't panic!

I found this tick on my mudroom was, just waiting with arms outstretched to grab onto its next host.

Everyone I see these days seems to have ticks on their mind — or on their pant legs, shirtsleeves, in their hair, or on their skin. I hate ticks not just for what they look like, but also because of what they can transmit when they bite. What to do about this sudden explosion of ticks now that the warmer and wetter weather has arrived in the Upper Valley? First of all, don't panic. There are steps you can take to minimize the possibility of a tick bite, and, even after a tick has bitten you, there are easy ways to protect yourself from Lyme Disease..

My mudroom tick encased in invisible tape. Note its size next to my little finger. The black-legged, or deer tick which can transmit Lyme Disese is quite small

First, take some solace in knowing that, according to sciencenews.org, less than 5 percent of tick bites actually result in an infection. That infection is called Lyme Disease, so named after Lyme and Old Lyme, CT where in 1975 a woman brought an unusual cluster of what was thought to be pediatric rheumatoid arthritis cases to the attention of researchers at Yale University in New Haven, CT.

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Second, even if you do find a tick attached to your skin, it takes 36 - 48 hours before the bacteria that causes Lyme disease travels from within the tick to its saliva for transmission. Daily tick checks and tick removal are important. Performing tick checks when you come in from outside is a must. And removing ticks is easy with a pair of tweezers. This, according to Wikipedia, is how to remove a tick from your skin: "The best method is simply to pull the tick out with tweezers as close to the skin as possible, without twisting, and avoiding crushing the body of the tick or removing the head from the tick's body."  

Removing a tick with tweezers is the best way.

Other ways of preventing Lyme disease include the following: 1. when walking outside or in the woods wear light-colored clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants tucked into socks so you can identify ticks more easily, 2. wash clothing in hot water then dry in a hot drier to kill ticks (ticks can't survive the heat and dryness of a hot drier cycle), 3. check children and pets before they come into the house to remove ticks before they attach, 4. treat your clothing with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact (permethrin is available at a pharmacy and can treat clothing by soaking it in a plastic bag then letting it air dry), 5. use an organic tick product that's heavy on peppermint oil which tick seems to hate, 6. double check areas such as groin, armpits, hair, and nape of neck for ticks and remove ticks promptly.

You may recognize Lyme Disease by a red bull's eye or a raised red rash near the tick-bitten area. Lyme Disease is treatable with antibiotics, so be sure to see your doctor if the red rash warning signs appear on your skin.

A classic bull's-eye rash from a Lyme disease-infected deer tick bite.

Since 25% of people infected with Lyme Disease may have no rash, it's important to understand the telltale signs of the disease. These include flu-like symptoms such as headache, muscle soreness, fever, and malaise according to an article published in Cambridge University Press.

A raised red rash from a Lyme disease-infected deer tick bite.

Should you contract Lyme disease, don't fear. It is treatable with antibiotics such as  doxycyclineamoxicillin, and cefuroximeThe standard treatment usually lasts for two or three weeks.. Your doctor will know the best regimen to prescribe for you.  

Other ways to prevent ticks from using you as their next host include things like: 1. wearing LYMEEZ tick gaiters which are treated with permethrin, or 2. spraying an organic tick spray such as YAYA Tick Ban on your clothing, your dog, or your horse before heading outside. Some people I know keep a lidded jar full of rubbing alcohol near their door as a reminder to do a tick check when coming inside. They'll drop any ticks they find into the jar for safe removal. With regular tick checks, you'll force deer ticks to use mice or deer as their preferred hosts.

My message to you is to keep going outside because it's healthy to be active in the great outdoors. Just use the above preventive measures to decrease your chances of getting Lyme Disease. Parents, check your children often, and get them used to checking themselves. This disease has most likely been around since the early 1600's, and it's not going away any time soon. It has been identified in all 50 states in the U.S. While vaccines are being sought, there's nothing yet on the market to turn to for a quick fix. So, enjoy being outside, be safe, and keep checking for ticks each day. As the summer comes along and things dry out, tick activity will decrease. Then, in the fall, tick activity will increase again. You are your own best protection from Lyme Disease.


Dave Celone is a writer and poet, and hater of ticks. He also happens to own Long River Gallery & Gifts in White River Junction, Vermont.  Click Here to follow Dave whenever he posts to the dailyuv.com. 


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