By Lynn G Howard, FNP-C
Movie Night Ken is super excited that winter is over because he loves hiking. He knows to prepare by carrying plenty of water, sunscreen and snacks, but after reading some alarming news, he decided to better protect himself against tick-borne illnesses. Notice his light colored, tucked in clothing covering his arms and legs.
Indeed, news headlines such as, “It’s Tick Season-Know Your Enemy” (Forbes), “Health departments urge residents to beware of ticks” and “Lyme cases in Maine spiked again in 2017 to another record” (Lawlor, 2018) are almost enough to scare you from going outside! But, fortunately there is abundant information regarding the scope of the problem and prevention of related illnesses. In researching for this article, I found these sites particularly useful: www.ticksinmaine.com, and www.TickEncounter.org.
Did you know?
- Ticks are arachnids (like spiders and mites) and there are many types (15!) found in Maine.
- The most concerning is the Ixodes scapularis (aka, deer tick, black-legged tick) because it can transmit bacteria and other organisms that can causes such as Lyme disease.
- Ticks do not hang from trees, jump or fly. They climb. They attach to your clothing near the ground and crawl their way up to an area where you might not notice them as readily, such as the upper back or neck.
- Deer tick nymphs are tiny, the size of a poppy seed, and most active in June and July. Then they become adults and are active through the fall but can continue at any time temperatures are above freezing.
- We not only have to protect ourselves against Lyme disease but also anaplasmosis and babesiosis, which are deer tick related diseases.
What to do?
- Make it more difficult for a tick to get attached: wear light colored clothing, tuck your shirts and socks in.
- Use insect repellents, specifically DEET which is available in many brands of repellent that work against ticks. Keep in mind that special precautions should be used when applying DEET to children (AAP 2018).
- Pre-treat your clothing with a product that contains permethrin that repels and kills ticks and remains effective through several wash cycles.
- Protect your pets with repellents and Lyme vaccines as recommended by your vet.
- Get in the habit of inspecting for ticks after being outdoors. Showering can remove unattached ticks.
- Dry your clothes in a dry for 10 minutes on high heat to kill ticks.
- Remove attached ticks promptly with sharp tweezers.
For more information: http://www.ticksinmaine.com/prevention/tick-removal.
- You can send a digital photo of your tick to Tick Encounters, www.tickencounter.org
- If you experience a rash, headaches, fever and flu-like symptoms after a recent tick bite, see your healthcare provider right away!!!
For more information about Ticks, check out: www.cdc.gov/ticks/, www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vector-borne/