Top Tips to Avoid Ticks

Did you know there are over 470,000 people diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease every year in the United States? It’s officially tick season across the United States as the warmer spring weather arrives, and with that comes an increased risk of Lyme disease. Ticks infected with Lyme disease (which they get from mice) can live in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and along the Northwest coast. It’s important to protect yourself and any dogs you may have from Lyme disease.

Symptoms

In humans, Lyme disease can cause joint pain, chills, fever, fatigue, and a rash. It can be treated with antibiotics, especially if caught early on. Some symptoms may not appear up to years later which include severe headaches, painful arthritis, joint swelling, and even heart and central nervous system problems.

In dogs, Lyme disease can cause similar symptoms including joint swelling and fatigue. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, lameness, and even serious kidney complications. Antibiotics can also help dogs recover from the disease.

Prevention Techniques

First off, you need to know where ticks live. Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the type of ticks that spread Lyme disease. They live in shady and moist areas close to ground level and can be found on tall grass, brush, and shrubs. Deer ticks can’t jump or fly (thankfully) so they must make direct contact with you to reach your body where they will seek out a more protected area. The CDC recommends checking these places after being outdoors in tick habitat:

  • Under your arms
  • In and around your ears
  • Inside your belly button
  • All over your hair
  • Between your legs
  • Around your waist

You should also check your clothes, your pets, and other gear you may have after being outdoors near tick habitat.

Do your best to avoid tall grasses and brush. For example, when enjoying a hike outdoors, stay in the middle of the path. Wearing full-length pants and tall socks while in tick territory can help prevent them from biting you. You can also treat your clothes with a tick repellant called Permethrin that lasts for months and can apply insect repellent to your skin. The CDC also recommends showering within two hours of returning indoors to wash off any ticks.

Similar logic also applies to dog Lyme disease prevention. Dogs can also take tick-prevention treatments. The oral variety will kill ticks after they’ve bitten your dog but the topical treatments are meant to kill ticks that land on your dog before attaching to their skin. However, it is concerning how these treatments may be damaging aquatic life. Also, it’s important to note that these treatments are not always 100% effective. Last spring, my dog, with her topical tick coating on, went for a walk in some slightly taller than average grass relatively close to a wooded area. We later found three ticks attached to her but thankfully she has not displayed any signs of Lyme disease and has switched to a new, supposedly more effective, treatment.

You should be aware of what ticks look like so you can spot them. Deer ticks are incredibly small ranging from the size of a poppy seed to a sesame seed. They can also range in color from brown, to red and black, and pure black. If you do spot a tick on your skin, please refer to these steps on New York State’s Department of Health website for how to safely and effectively remove it.

Keep these safety tips in mind for avoiding potentially dangerous tick bites while you’re enjoying the outdoors this spring and summer.  

Written by Sarah Woodams ’24 (T5)

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