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Who is at risk for Lyme disease?
Outdoor workers, gardeners, campers, hikers, pet owners, people who hunt, fish, golf, or picnic in parks, and children, including those on school sponsored outdoor activities are all at risk. Children are especially vulnerable since they run and play without caution.
Deer bring ticks into your yard and reducing deer populations can help in lowering tick numbers. Birds and other animals also transport ticks. Mice are a primary reservoir for a number of disease-causing microorganisms and often have many deer ticks attached to them. A tick seeking a blood meal will attach to a mouse, feed, and become infected. Other infections transmitted at the same time as Lyme disease can include Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Bartonellaosis, Ehrlichiosis, Mycoplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks are described as a cesspool of disease. The spring and summer months are the “Prime Time for Lyme,” however, you can be bitten year-round. Ticks seek a blood meal anytime the temperature is high enough for them to be mobile, even with snow cover.
Personal prevention tips
Avoid sitting on the ground, stone walls, woodpiles or fallen logs; use an impervious ground cover, e.g., Gore-Tex®. Walk in the center of well-maintained trails; avoid contacting brush along trails. Periodically check for ticks while in tick-infested areas. Deer ticks like cool, moist environments, such as leaf litter, tall grass, and the edge of yards, playgrounds, wooded areas, or roadsides. Many infections occur within the home yard if bordered by deer inhabited woods.
Wear light-colored long pants, long sleeved shirts and closely knitted socks. Tuck shirt into pants and tuck pants into socks. This will prevent a tick from crawling under clothing. Wear a kerchief and hat to protect your neck and head.
Rynoskin underwear is made from a knitted breathable stretch fabric that ticks have difficulty penetrating. It is reportedly helpful for hunters and anyone outdoors when the weather is cooler. Available in long sleeved tops, long bottoms, socks, hoods, and gloves. (Available from www.rynoskin.com)
Permethrin outdoor clothing spray
Permethrin is a synthetic chemical that kills ticks. Spray shoes, boots, socks, pants, sleeves, gloves, kerchief, and hat. Spray outdoors, and do not apply to skin. Treated clothing can be worn when dry. One treatment lasts 2-6 weeks. Follow all label directions carefully. (Available from Sawyer, Ultrathon Gear and Clothing Spray, Duranon, Permanone, etc. in outdoor retail stores’ or online)
Insect Shield® outdoor clothing
Pretreated with permethrin and effective through 70 washings. Developed by the US Department of Defense. (Available from ExOfficio, LL Bean, Orvis, REI, etc. or insectshield.com/)
DEET products are available for use on skin or clothing. Caution using DEET on children. Follow label instructions and avoid getting repellent in the eyes or mouth. Higher concentrations provide longer protection. (Available as sprays and wipes, e.g., OFF®, Deep Woods OFF®, Cutter© Backwoods, Ultrathon, etc). Ultrathon time-release formulations provide extended protection. Non-DEET repellents, include BioUD (www.homs.com/bioud.html), Natrapel® (available from online outdoor stores, e.g., www.rei.com/product/770010) and
IR3535 (Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535® Expedition SPF
30 Pump Spray, etc.) Plant oils are reported to be tick repellents.
After returning indoors
Immediately perform a careful tick check. Deer ticks are tiny and difficult to see. If possible, have someone else inspect you. Be sure to check your hairline and were clothes fit tightly. Parents should check children. Shower promptly using a washcloth to remove unattached ticks. Remove attached ticks immediately using fine pointed tweezers or tick-removal tool. Grasp tick close to the skin, pull gently straight out. Do not use petroleum jelly, alcohol, soap, lit match or cigarette as this might cause the tick to regurgitate Lyme bacteria into you. Save tick in a plastic bag or vial with a moistened cotton ball for identification and possible testing. After removing the tick, call your doctor promptly and consider requesting immediate antibiotic treatment. If the tick is infected, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment is key to recovery. Delay will allow the infection to disseminate in the body where treatment is often less effective.
Consider keeping outdoor clothes in the garage or shed as ticks can migrate from clothing brought indoors and invade the home. You can also wash and dry your clothes immediately. Some people put the clothes in a trash bag then spray with permethrin and tie up the bag to kill the ticks before washing. Washing alone will not kill ticks, but a 30-minute hot cycle in a dryer will.
Damminix® tick tubes
Small paper tubes containing permethrin-treated cotton balls. Placed in mice habitats the cotton is used for nesting material. Permethrin kills ticks on mice. (Available from some home and garden stores and www.ticktubes.com/)
Select TCS Tick Control System
Small plastic boxes containing bait to attract mice. The enclosed insecticide fipronil kills ticks on mice. (Contact www.tickboxtcs.com/ for certified installers)
Yard spraying for tick control
Available from lawn care businesses and as homeowner hose-on applicators from Home Depot, Lowes, etc. Available as permethrin, bifenthrin, deltamethrin, cyfluthrin, cypermethrin, cyhalothrin, or Sevin®. Generally the shady yard and woods, fence rows, and fields border is the main area treated. Grassy areas greater than 9 feet from the border and in full sun contain few ticks.
Products available for dogs and cats, e.g., Frontline®, Fiproguard, Certifect®, K9 Atvantix®, Preventic® collars, etc. Caution: not all dog products are safe for cats. Read labels carefully. Obtain online or from your veterinarian. Consider keeping pets either inside or outside as even treated-outdoor pets can bring ticks into your home and to your children. It is not advisable to have your outdoor pets sleep with you.