With warmer weather upon us, the risk of Lyme disease increases as we spend more and more time outside – especially, in wooded, forestry areas. Vector-borne disease expert Stephen Wikel explained, “Luckily, ticks don’t fly, jump, or fall from the sky. They generally move from grass to a living host, and crawl upwards, looking for a warm, moist area to feed. Ticks also have incredible antidetection defenses. For example, their saliva is loaded with antihistamines, anticoagulants, and other inhibitors that prevent wound healing, and dampen pain and itch responses. Unfed nymphs are so small, they can be mistaken for freckles.”
Wikel has offered some recommendations in order to reduce the risk of tick bites this summer – and also lower your risk of Lyme disease.
- Protect your ankles: Wear long pants tucked into high socks when doing yard work. Wrap duct tape – sticky side out – around where the pants and socks meet so that crawling ticks get stuck on the tape.
- Dress properly: Use clothing, tents, and other gear treated with repellent, such as permethrin. This repellent kills ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, and mites. These products are available online or at sporting goods stores.
- Wear repellent: Apply topical insect repellent that contains less than 40 percent DEET. Children should use repellent that contains no more than 30 percent DEET.
- Conduct tick checks: “Tick bites are painless, so if you are in an area with ticks, perform a thorough tick check and remove ticks immediately,” Wikel advised.
- Don’t forget pets. “The neurotransmitter blockers in anti-tick treatments and flea collars are very effective in keeping ticks from biting pets,” – said Wikel – “When pets come indoors, check for crawling ticks to prevent them from getting off your pet and on to you.”
- Create a tick-free zone: You can make your yard less attractive to rodents, deer, and other tick carriers. Keeping lawns trimmed and creating barriers between your yard and the woods with wood chips, mulch, or gravel can eliminate tall grasses where ticks crawl. Remove wood piles and stones where mice, chipmunks, and squirrels may hide. These little critters keep tick larva and nymphs circulating in nature.
- Hike carefully: Stay in the center of hiking trails to avoid contact with vegetation.
Even if you have tried your best to avoid a tick from latching on, it can still happen so removing the tick when first noticed also lowers your risk of Lyme disease – but there is a right and wrong way to do so.
For starters, don’t try to burn them off as it can cause bacteria to be released, which can still lead to infection. The best way to remove a tick is by using tweezers or thin forceps. If the tick is intact, you can bring it to your doctor for identification.
Early signs of a tick-borne illness include fever and chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and, in some cases, a bull’s eye rash, but this does not occur in everyone.
Also, read Bel Marra Health’s article on Lyme disease treatment may be possible as new drug studies show promise.