Ticks and Tickborne Illness

With the wet weather, we’ve seen a huge increase in the tick population so I thought I would do an article on preventing tickborne illness. It’s been a really bad year for ticks. We’re seeing a lot more of them in their usual habitat back in the woods and are seeing them in places they usually don’t hang out like in our lawn and in the grass by the bucket calves. Tickborne illnesses, especially Lyme disease, can cause serious health problems. In some areas, up to 50% of ticks carry Lyme, so take preventative measures to not get bit. Here are some strategies that we’ve found helpful:

-Always wear long pants and closed toe shoes, even if you’re just stepping out for a few minutes.

-If you’re going in to an area that is likely to be infested like the woods or areas with tall grass, consider adding extra protection such as long sleeves, a hat, and gloves. In the woods it’s been so bad that we’ve been tucking our pants into our socks and shirts into our gloves

-Off makes a version of their deep woods bug spray that has tick protection. In my experience this doesn’t seem to deter them completely, especially the larger deer ticks, but it helps. It also does a good job helping you avoid mosquito and biting flies.

Even with these precautions, it is possible to pick up ticks. It takes at least 24 hours for a tick to embed itself into your skin to be able to spread disease, so checking yourself for ticks at least once a day is essential if you’ve been working outside. They like to hide in your hair, between toes, behind/in ears, and in other hard to reach places. Even with the precautions I’ve been taking, I’ve found two ticks so far this year but didn’t get bit because I was looking for them.

Also take precautions against ticks coming in to your home. Most houses aren’t humid enough for ticks to survive more than a day or two, but dog ticks can live and breed indoors and other kinds can survive longer if the humidity is higher. If you have pets, they can act as a vehicle to allow ticks to infest your home. Some things that you can do to prevent ticks from hitching a ride into your house are:

-If you’ve been outside, change clothes either before you come in or change as soon as you get in the house

-Run clothes that have been worn outside through the washer and more importantly, the dryer as soon as possible. Most ticks can survive soap and water, but the dryer will overheat and overdry them within 15 minutes or so

-Regularly inspect your pets for ticks even if they don’t go outside, and make sure they are getting a monthly flea and tick treatment.

-Some essential oils such as citrus, mint, and cinnamon drive away ticks. D Earth can also be used to dry them out. If you need a pet/furniture/people/carpet friendly way of deterring ticks, those are some options.

If prevention doesn’t work and you get bit, remove the tick with a pair of tweezers or a special tick removal tool. Twist the tick rather than pulling at it, and resist the urge to crush the tick with your fingers because that’s another way they can spread disease. Clean the bite with rubbing alcohol and save the tick in a plastic bag or other sealed container. If within a few days of getting the bite you develop a fever or a rash around the bite, see a doctor and take the tick with you for testing. The impact of many tickborne illnesses can be reduced by getting treatment quickly, so err on the side of caution if you don’t feel well after a tick bite.

For more information about preventing and treating tick bites, check out this article by WebMd


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