Staying healthy is what it's all about!

Stephen L. Blythe, D.O.

Board Certified, Family Practice

Nutritionist

Machias, Maine 04654

Avoiding Ticks and Tick-borne Disease

Adapted from information by the CDC

Gardening, camping, hiking, just playing outdoors – These are all great spring and summertime activities, but don't forget about the ticks that may be in the same environment. Fortunately there are several tactics you can use to prevent tick bites and reduce your risk of tick-borne disease.

Some of the more common diseases that you can get from a tick bite include (listed alphabetically):

  • Babesiosis
  • Ehrlichosis
  • Lyme Disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Tick-borne Relapsing Fever
  • Tularemia

In some species and life stages, ticks are so small that they can be difficult to see, but all hungrily look for animals and people to bite. Depending on the species, you can find ticks in various environments, often in or near wooded areas. You may come into contact with ticks when walking through infested areas or by brushing up against infested vegetation (such as leaf litter or shrubs). Ticks also feed on mammals and birds, which play a role in maintaining ticks and the pathogens they carry.

Our biggest concern is the deer tick.  It is much smaller than the brown dog tick, which is probably more common. If you are bit by a brown dog tick you will not be at risk for Lyme Disease.  See a comparison of common ticks.

 

 Tick-borne diseases can occur worldwide. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.
  • Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs. Always walk in the center of trails, in order to avoid ticks.Sawyers Permethrin

  • Pre-treat your clothing with permethrin (pants, boots, and socks especially, and long-sleeved shirts if you will be in the woods). Permethrin is a very effective repellent on clothing only. It lasts through several washes. Wearing permethrin treated clothing allows you to minimize use of DEET on skin. Permethrin can be ordered online through Amazon.com.   

  • Use a repellent with DEET on exposed skin. Repellents containing 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can be applied to the skin, and they can protect up to several hours. Always follow product instructions! Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding the hands, eyes, and mouth. The stronger DEET formulas should not be used on children. Be aware that DEET can damage plastics such as watch crystals, eyeglasses, and camera lenses and viewfinders.

Perform Daily Tick Checks

 

Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Conduct a body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas by searching your entire body for ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body and remove any tick you find. Check these parts of your body and your child's body for ticks:
  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside the belly button
  • Back of the knees
  • Under the arms
  • In and around your hair
  • Around the waist
  • Between the legs

Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has shown to reduce your risk of being bitten by a tick.

 

Check your children for ticks, especially in the hair, when returning from potentially tick-infested areas. See the list above for the places on your child's body to check for ticks. Remove any tick you find on your child's body.

 

Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Placing clothes like jackets into a dryer on high heat for at least an hour effectively kills ticks.

What to Do If You Are Bitten by a Tick

 

Remove an attached tick as soon as you notice it and wash the area well. Watch for signs of illness such as rash or fever over the following weeks, and see a health care provider if these develop.  See: How to Remove a tick.

 

Your risk of acquiring a tick-borne illness depends on many factors, including where you live, what type of tick bit you, and how long the tick was attached. Generally if a tick was not biting you for 12 hours or more your chances of developing an illness are small.

Reduce Ticks in Your Yard

  • Modify your landscape to create Tick-Safe Zones. To do this, keep play areas and playground equipment away from shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation. Also, regularly remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around homes, and place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks away from recreational areas.

  • Provide a vegetation-free play area. Keep play areas and playground equipment away from away from shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation.

  • Use a chemical control agent. Effective tick control chemicals are available for use by the homeowner, or they can be applied by a professional pest control expert, and even limited applications can greatly reduce the number of ticks. A single springtime application of acaricide can reduce the population of ticks that cause Lyme disease by 68–100%.   Follow instructions for application of any pesticide, and avoid using any pesticide near a shallow well.

  • Discourage deer. Removing plants that attract deer and constructing physical barriers may help discourage deer from entering your yard and bringing ticks with them.

  • My neighbor’s chickens consider my yard to be within their “free range”. At first I was not happy about that until I realized that chickens love to eat ticks! Consider this a good reason to have a few chickens!

Prevent Ticks on your Pets

 

Prevent family pets from bringing ticks into the home. Maintain your family pet under a veterinarian’s care. Two of the ways to get rid of ticks on dogs and cats are putting on tick medicine or using a tick collar. Be sure to use these products according to the package instructions.