Summer provides the opportunity to have fun outdoors and exciting adventures in the wilderness. Even though these outings are some of the greatest joys that summer can offer, if they are not done safely there is risk of contracting some serious health conditions.
Ticks are small, stealthy, and are expected to be a prevalent threat this year. The primary danger associated with ticks is the transfer of Lyme disease. This condition is incredibly difficult to diagnose and can cause a wide array of symptoms ranging anywhere from nerve damage, muscle pain, lasting fatigue, and even paralysis. Familiarizing oneself with the transmitters of this disease, recognizing the increased risk of tick bites in the coming months, and the appropriate measures to take to reduce the risk of tick bites may help keep one from contracting the debilitating disease that is Lyme.
Ticks Transferring Lyme
Ticks are the primary cause of Lyme in humans. However, ticks themselves are not the source of Lyme. Before causing serious damage, ticks must become carriers of disease. Ticks feed on the blood of animals and they ingest any bacteria or substances found within their bloodstream. Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacteria that causes Lyme, is frequently found in rodents such as the white-footed mouse. After acquiring the bacteria, ticks become stealthy carriers of disease, spreading Lyme to any animals or persons they can bite.
Ticks can attach to a person even if the individual is only outside for a short period. For example, one mother found a tick on her young son after only a few short hours of playing outside. Even more concerning is the fact that this did not occur in typical tick hotspots such as thick wooded areas, brush, tall grass, or leaf litter. Even though it takes time to transfer Lyme bacteria to a new host, it is easy to overlook a tick bite, which allows time for the disease to enter one’s system.
More Ticks Mean More Lyme
Because Lyme is proliferated primarily through ticks and the different animals they latch on to, an increased tick population correlates to greater occurrence of Lyme disease. A collection of scientists suspect that the Lyme-transferring tick population will be exceptionally high during the summer months of 2017.
Rodent population is a primary factor related to tick prevalence. Therefore, a greater prevalence of rodents, such as the white-footed mouse in the northeast, can have significant influence on tick population. According to recent data, there was a significant boom in white-footed mice due to increased production of acorns that occurred two years ago. Although it may not be immediately apparent, according to Felicia Keesing, a biologist at Bard College in New York who has spent many years analyzing tick-borne illnesses, there is a direct connection between acorn abundance and Lyme-infected ticks. The population boom of white-footed mice due to greater acorn prevalence also increases the population of Lyme-carrying ticks. Keesing says, regarding this concerning data, that “the risk to humans is going to be high starting this spring.”
Greater tick population has already been recognized in Northeastern states. Studies have found that Michigan has had a steady increase in Lyme-disease cases among humans. Data shows that there were less than 30 reported cases of Lyme disease in humans in the years between 2000 and 2004. By 2009 the number increased to 90 reported cases. 2013 contained 166 cases. Clearly, there is a significant increase in Lyme in the northeast. However, just because one may not live in the northeast doesn’t mean they are safe and it is no reason to neglect proper tick bite and Lyme prevention.
The following tips can help one avoid potentially dangerous and debilitating tick bites that have a notable risk of transferring Lyme disease.
- When in outdoor areas, try to avoid heavily wooded areas, bushes, and walking through brush. Tall grass and leaf litter are also common spots where ticks are likely to hide. It is particularly important to be tick conscious between April and July as that is when ticks are most active.
- If working, walking, or hiking in outdoor areas it is best to cover one’s skin as much as possible. Long sleeve shirts, pants, and socks that sufficiently protect one’s ankles can provide a barrier against tick bites. It is best to tuck one’s pants into their socks when outdoors.
- Insect repellents can deter ticks from in attaching to exposed skin. Properly protecting oneself with a repellent such as DEET may prevent tick bites when covering the entire body in clothing is not feasible. DEET can be used on the skin as well as clothes to keep ticks and other bugs at bay.
- After finishing any outdoor activity, immediately take a shower. Not only can this remove possible unwanted passengers that are already on the body, it reduces the risk of ticks on clothing finding their way onto the skin. Another method of removing ticks from clothing is to use a sticky tape lint roller to snatch up any undesirables. After coming indoors, placing one’s used outdoor clothing into the dryer and turning it on high heat can kill any unnoticed ticks.
- Tick checks should be done every time one is coming in from an outdoor area. This should include visual and physical examinations of dark moist areas including among one’s hair, behind the ears, behind the knees, elbows, underarms, and the crotch.
Removing Ticks the Right Way
Removing a tick is a simple process but it requires that one recognizes that a Lyme-carrying insect has attached itself to the body. If one has found a tick, by utilizing the above tips or otherwise, there is a simple and effective method of removal. The following process enables efficient removal of ticks.
- Sanitize a pair of fine point tweezers
- Using the tweezers, grab the tick by the head (where the tick meets the skin) at a sideways angle
- With gentle but steady pressure, pull the tick out of or off the skin
- Flush the tick down the toilet or seal it in a plastic bag before placing it into a trash receptacle
- Disinfect the hands and affected area on the body with soap and water
Unfortunately, some ineffective and possibly harmful remedies for ticks have been proliferated over the years. These processes can cause greater damage and make removal more difficult. When removing a tick avoid using oils, twisting or squeezing the tick, burning the site of infection with a match, or using Vaseline. By following proper tick removal practices and not employing dangerous misguided tips and hints, proper tick removal and safe disinfection can be achieved.
Having A Tick Free Summer
There is evidence that suggests Lyme-carrying ticks are growing in population. However, through recognizing the possible dangers of higher tick prevalence and employing healthy tick and Lyme prevention practices, one can reduce the risk of contracting debilitating tick-borne disease.