The tick population here in the northeast is predicted to be larger than ever. More ticks equals more risk for tick borne diseases like Lyme. We can blame the warm winter and the increase in the population of the white footed mouse, a favorite host of the deer tick. Additionally, I don’t know about you, but I am seeing deer everywhere I turn these days.
Last year, the CDC reported about 30,000 new cases of Lyme, with higher numbers expected this year. As if this isn’t bad enough, there is another tick borne illness, Powassan, which is is much more serious, albeit much more rare. Though there have only been 75 cases reported in the U.S. over the last 10 years, but experts are expecting a few more this year, because again, more ticks = more risk.
What can you do?
You can avoid the great outdoors altogether or venture out in long pants tucked into socks and long sleeved shirts, but I’m assuming this is unrealistic and simply a really bad look. More practically speaking, if you and your kids are going to be outside in or near woody or bushy areas:
1. Use an insect repellant with at least 20% DEET.
2. Spray clothes as well as skin and insect repellant needs to be reapplied every couple hours. Focus on the lower extremities as ticks will crawl onto you from the ground.
3. Once inside, everyone needs to be checked for ticks — pets too. Not only can dogs and cats get lyme, they can carry the tick to you.
There is a country song by Brad Paisley called Ticks, “Cause I’d like to see you out in the moonlight / I’d like to kiss you way back in the sticks / I’d like to walk you through a field of wildflowers / And I’d like to check you for ticks…” Talk about an awful visual, but it has to be done. Other than not getting bitten in the first place, getting a tick off quickly is the best thing you can do to prevent disease.
So unfortunately, this is the scenario. You come in from a great, but long day outside hiking, barbecuing or just hanging with friends. You’ve had a couple Coronas or some white wine, and the very last thing you want to do is strip everyone down and look for bugs. Do it anyway. You can’t just glance. You have to look in the hard to see areas like behind the ears, the scalp, the groin and the armpits.
If you find one, do not panic. You have time. Pull it off gently but firmly with tweezers. You want to get the whole critter out without leaving the mouth parts behind.
I know. Gross. You’re welcome.