By: Community Health Associates
People living in the Northeast are no strangers to ticks, as nearly everyone has had at least one encounter with these pesky creatures. The warm weather in spring and summer lures the tiny arthropods out from hiding, which means more tick bites and tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease.
All ticks, however, are not created equal, as deer ticks are known to carry more illnesses than any other tick. In fact, deer ticks carry 6 different diseases, including Lyme disease. Lyme disease infects approximately 300,000 Americans each year, and if left untreated, can cause severe flu-like symptoms and nerve/joint pain. Other diseases spread by deer ticks, including babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and powassan virus, are all very serious and potentially fatal.
Here’s a list of helpful tips to protect you and your family from deer ticks and the diseases they transmit:
Avoid areas that attract ticks.
Ticks thrive in moist, humid environments. They are also typically found in wooded, bushy or high grass areas, so avoid these areas, and make sure to walk in the center of the trail if you’re out hiking.
Wear protective clothing.
Wear light-colored socks with long pants tucked into the socks. Ticks are crawling up from the ground, and they’ll keep crawling up until they find exposed skin to attach to. The light-colored socks and clothing makes it much easier to see ticks.
Put repellents on clothing.
Repellents such as Permethrin, a pesticide that kills ticks and mites, are extremely effective in preventing ticks from latching on to your clothes. Don’t apply Permethrin directly to your skin, as it should go only on your clothes, shoes, or hiking/camping gear. Additionally, be sure to use an insect repellent that contains DEET on your skin.
While DEET-containing insect repellents are definitely the most effective option, if you’re trying to avoid harsh chemicals, a natural alternative can be made at home using essential oils, such as rose geranium, lemongrass, eucalyptus, cedar oil and citronella, and mixing these oils with a base of water, witch hazel or alcohol. Simply use a clean, empty spray bottle to mix 5-10 drops of each of the oils listed above with your base choice. Then, spray the mixture on your skin and clothing prior to going outside.
Do a “tick check” after being outdoors.
Always check yourself for ticks after spending time outside. Specific areas to check include: inside the belly button, back of the knees, under the armpits, and inner thigh area. Make sure to ask a friend or family member to check your hair, back of your ears/neck, etc. Throw the clothes you wore outside into the dryer for 30 minutes to kill any ticks that may have latched on.
Prevent ticks on dogs/cats.
Using a spot-on medication that your veterinarian recommends is effective in preventing ticks from attaching on to your pet. However, check your pet for ticks after they’ve been outside regardless of using treatments, as these are not 100% effective. This form of prevention is important even if a tick doesn’t latch directly onto your dog or cat, as it can still crawl onto your skin while your pet is next to you or sitting on your lap.
Promptly and correctly remove attached ticks.
As soon as you spot a tick latched onto your skin, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Be sure to gently pull in an upward motion, using steady, even pressure. After removing the tick, clean the bite area thoroughly with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
If early Lyme disease symptoms develop, such as a fever, rash, muscle aches, or joint pain, call us right away at 203-270-1077 to schedule an appointment in our Newtown office for an evaluation and/or treatment.
*For a full list of diseases transmitted by deer ticks and the symptoms to look for with each illness, check out this article on Business Insider.