It’s Spring! Time to turn your attention to Lyme Disease prevention.
I wonder what the ticks are doing to get prepared?
Preparing for spring, and especially tick season, is a new tradition. I’ve heard too many stories of people pulling off copious amounts of ticks and not thinking twice about it. There are many reports of animals COVERED in ticks. I fear for the hunters out there.
I’d hope we’d all think at least twice about pulling an embedded deer tick off now!
Ticks are active all year round, they are just more active at different times of the year.
And ICK! Spring is one of them.
I’ve already seen a patient with a deer tick in hand for the first tick bite appointment of the season.
Please do review about Borrelia, Lyme Disease and deer ticks so you have current information.
Deer ticks have those red butts! Remember, if you see the red moon rising, that’s bad news. Note in this image that you can see the red crescent butt on the black legged (deer) ticks at the top. The dog ticks at the bottom tend to have white markings and white racing strips. When the ticks in the small nymph phase, all bets are off. It’s really hard to tell. An engorged tick will be hard to distinguish too.
Know the difference between IDSA and ILADS. If you don’t the difference, please read my website or ILADS.org to learn more. It saddens me to know that ignorance on this subject can be life destroying. I watch it happen every day.
Remember. Always save the tick! The official CDC position is that a deer tick must be attached for 24 to 48 hours to spread Borrelia. However, anecdotal evidence suggests the transmission of Borrelia may be much faster than that. Also, the transmission of other infections from a tick can be exceedingly fast.
If you have the tick, you can get the tick tested to find out if the tick had Borrelia (and other infections). Two good sources for tick testing are
http://www.igenex.com (forms and sample requirements/test request forms/tick test request form)
Umass extension (tests done on Tuesday)
If you get a deer tick bite, please test the tick. Consider strongly starting a treatment before Borrelia spreads. Call the office and schedule and appointment if you need my help. These are not easy issues. Acute Lyme tends to be quite treatable. Chronic lyme mostly is not treatable, although it is often manageable.
Since the incidence of Borrelia in deer ticks is reported up to 70% depending on location, I often suggest people take antibiotics while they wait for the results of the tick test. The longer the tick is on you, the more likely I’m going to suggest you take antibiotics. Or at least herbal antimicrobials while you wait for the results. I am not into “wait and see” if you get Lyme disease, as it can be very hard to treat in some people.
The official IDSA stand on tick bite Lyme disease prevention is currently 200 mg of doxycycyline one dose once. The study this is based on only studied the rash following the bite. They did NOT consider if people got Lyme disease in the study, only if they got the rash. So, doxycycline 200 mg one dose once is certainly effective to stop the rash…but not necessarily the infection. In the study they specifically did NOT ask if people got symptoms. I wonder if that dose of antibiotic alters your immune response to the infection and makes things worse for some people.
Only 30% of people with Lyme Disease got a rash
Only 30% of people with Lyme Disease remember the bite.
There are many steps you can take to help reduce the tick exposure in your family and yourself.
Treat your pets. Dogs and cats carry ticks into the house and they can bite you even if you don’t’ step foot into the “great outdoor”
Watch out for mice and chipmunks!
The white footed mouse is a common carrier of deer ticks. The white footed mouse can get into your house much easier than a deer. There is also a lot more of them. You can make sure you aren’t getting mice in your house, and take appropriate steps if you are. There are even products out there that are basically cotton balls with insect repellant that you can lace around your yard so the mice collect the cotton and get a dose of bug spray for their effort.
You can see this website for an example called Tick Tubes
Be more bug proof. I recommend DEET. DEET has side effects and is toxicity increases as the percentage of deet in the formula increases. However, it does work. 20% DEET spray is considered the minimum concentration for tick prevention. The up side is that it lasts a long time. Often I suggest people use DEET on their clothes and then use natural bug stuff on their skin.
The natural bug stuff. There are many natural bug care products out there that are effective. The problem with them is that they don’t last long. Generally I expect natural bug repellents to last about 20 minutes. You just absorb them through your skin in that time, just like you absorb anything you put onto your skin. A good way to know to reapply is that the biting flies are biting again. These are good options for short term outside stays or longer term stays with reapplication.
There are also garments that are bug proof, or sprays that you can spray onto your clothes that make your clothes bug proof for several to many washes. Sawyer Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent is an example. These sprays are for clothes. Follow the directions very carefully. It would be a good idea to use a respirator to put them on. You do not put these on your skin as they are neurotoxic, but bind to the fabric and don’t absorb at that point.
Of course, looking like a fool helps. Tuck long pants into socks. Tuck shirts into pants. Check for ticks often. Use light colored clothing so you can see them.
An ideal would be to make a light colored uniform that you wear out in tick country. (gardening clothes, work clothes, play clothes)
Check for ticks when you go inside. Check for tick outside as well. Check out that crawling sensation on your skin right away.
The best place to check your body for ticks in your house is NOT your bedroom. An ideal location would be somewhere where you could easily see those little creatures as they scuttle across a white floor. Don’t keep your dirty outdoor clothes near your bed either. Ticks walk. Make it a very long walk.
A dryer does kill ticks but washing machines don’t. Ticks don’t drown. It’s the same reason you shouldn’t flush a live tick. They can just walk back out. Instead, a high heat dryer can kill them.
Other ideas that spring to mind are…
Get chickens! Chickens, esp guinea hens, eat ticks.
Make your yard more tick proof…
(Copied from news-medical.net)
- Clear out. Reduce your tick exposure by clearing out areas where lawn and tree debris gathers. Ticks thrive in moist, shady areas and tend to die in sunny, dry areas. Locate compost piles away from play areas or high traffic. Separate them with wood chips or gravel. Don’t position playground equipment, decks and patios near treed areas.
- Clean. Eliminate leaf litter and brush by cleaning it up around the house and lawn edges, mow tall grasses and keep your lawn short.
- Choose plants. Select plants and shrubs that are not attractive to deer and/or install physical barriers to keep deer out of your yard. Check with your local nursery to determine the best choices for your area.
- Check hiding places. Know tick hiding places and check them frequently. Fences, brick walls and patio retaining walls are popular hiding places.
- Care for family pets. Family pets can suffer from tick-borne disease and also carry infected ticks into the home. Talk to your veterinarian about using tick collars and sprays. As with all pest control products, be sure to follow directions carefully.
- Call the pros. Professionals utilize both barrier sprays that can kill live ticks on the spot as well as “tick tubes.” Strategically placed, “tick tubes” prompt field mice to incorporate tick-killing material in their bedding, effectively eliminating hundreds of tick nymphs found in each mouse nest.