From personal experience, I can promise you that it’s never fun to discover a parasite dug into your skin. Feeding on you.
But unfortunately, ticks seem to be everywhere this year. Climate change is partly to blame, as ticks are more likely to survive a mild winter than a frigid one. And mice, which carry ticks and aid in the spreading of tick-borne diseases, also love warm winters – researchers have said that if you see a boost in the mouse population, it most likely means a bumper crop of ticks. And there’ve been a lot of mice scurrying around.
So here we are. It’s summer. The woods are calling. And there are a ton of ticks… waiting for a warm host to pass by so they can latch on and start sucking.
What should we do? Stay inside watching Fear the Walking Dead? While that doesn’t sound terrible, there are many who’d rather be outside, enjoying everything this great state has to offer. But before some recommendations, some information on the funky diseases and bacteria they carry:
- Lyme disease: Named after the small Connecticut town Lyme, where mysterious symptoms started popping up in 1975, this is a big one. Spread by the deer tick, symptoms can include sore joints, rashes, and fevers. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause a host ofneurological problems and even blindness.
- Powassan virus: Deer ticks can carry a strain of this virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, confusion, weakness, seizures, and memory loss. Long term neurological problems may also occur. Oh. And your brain could swell, putting you into a coma.
- Meat allergy: The Lonestar Tick (named for the star-like white mark on its abdomen) is a real jerk. One bite from this guy can give you a lifetime allergic reaction to meat. Just think: NO MORE STEAK! It basically reworks your immune system to reject most red meat. One bite, and your body could release a huge amount of histamines, reacting similarly to someone with a bee allergy who’s just been stung.
And those are just three of a litany of problems. Here’s a fuller list created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While you shouldn’t allow ticks to dictate where or when you go outside, you should take precautions (for more check out this list from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
Before walking in woods or fields, tuck pants in socks.
- Use bug spray. Remember – there are natural alternatives to consider, like citronella, vinegar, and Lemon Eucalyptus. And give your dog a spray too with pet-approved bug juice. (Just watch their eyes).
- Frequent tick checks: like the Brad Paisley song Ticks reminds us: “You never know where one might be… there's lots of places that are hard to reach.”
- Surround you and your dogs with dozens of chickens, and train them to form a protective barrier around you wherever you go. Chickens love to munch on ticks.
If you ever find a tick on you, pull it off right away. Grab the offender firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible, and pull upward, using steady pressure. Then clean the bite area with soap and water. If the tick has been feeding for a while (over 36 hours approximately), it’s good practice to put it in a jar and save it, because if you start feeling symptoms, doctors can test it (and you) for disease.
We’re all going to have to get used to ticks, and all the nasties that go along with them. So enjoy your summer, but stay safe and check often!