Tag Archives: deer ticks

Holiday Hints by Bob Oley

It is that time of year again when we are getting in the holiday spirit, and thinking about going out and buying a Christmas tree or cutting one down on your own. Before doing so however, keep in mind that a holiday surprise may be waiting for you in the branches of the tree: that seemingly inescapable deer tick. Adult deer ticks are looking this time of year for a host to feed on, and that host could be you, a family member, or your pet.

Fortunately, deer ticks will not live very long on your tree inside your home. They require high humidity to survive, and your home just does not present that humid an environment. So if the tick does not climb onto you within the first couple of days of the tree being in your home, the odds are very good they will just fall off the tree and die.


So, a few helpful hints are in order:

  1. If you insist on cutting your own tree down, take the necessary precautions to prevent getting bitten by a tick when you are out in the woods and bringing your tree home. Wear clothing treated with tick repellent and treat your exposed skin with repellent as well. And just as importantly, carefully check yourself and family members for ticks at the end of the day.
  2. Consider buying a tree from a seller where you know the trees have been away from the tree farm for some days or weeks. This will give the tree an opportunity to shed itself of ticks.
  3. Keep your tree outside for a few days before bringing it into your home. Keep it stored on a hard surface such as a porch or driveway, and not your lawn or garden areas where deer ticks are likely to be present.
  4. Spray your Christmas tree skirt with permethrin, a tick repellent you can purchase from sporting good stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods or Cabelas. Any live ticks, which may come off the tree and land on the skirt, will be killed by the insecticide.

By taking a few simple precautions, you can enjoy your holiday season without having to worry about unwanted ticks on your Christmas tree.

Preventing TBDs will Make You a Happy Camper by Bob Oley

Summer camp season has arrived, and you have probably packed your children for some memorable weeks away from home. Weeks spent in nature though will also carry risks, and you have no doubt done everything you can to make sure your kids are prepared. Unfortunately, there is a tiny but serious threat that you may not be fully-informed of: the deer tick.

Deer ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of a variety of hosts, including people. Children are especially at risk due to their predilection for playing in grassy or forested areas, particularly during the summer, a peak-time for deer tick activity.

One bite from a minute deer tick can infect you or your child with Lyme disease and other potentially debilitating tick-borne diseases including Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Bartonellosis, Mycoplasma, tick paralysis, and viruses.

Deer ticks, which can be no larger than a poppy seed during their nymphal stages, seek hosts by a behavior called “questing.” They do not jump or fly. Questing ticks perch on the stems of grass or small bushes, or on the edges of leaf litter or other vegetation, with their front legs extended. When a person’s body or clothing comes in contact with the extended legs of the tick, they will quickly grab on and search for a suitable place to bite, particularly around the legs, bottom, lower back, neck and scalp. Nymphal deer ticks will remain attached for several days until they become fully engorged with your blood and then drop off. Many people will never even notice that they were bitten.

Lyme and other tick-borne diseases can be treated most effectively in their earliest stages, so regular tick-checks at your child’s camp are key to early detection. If your children or camp supervisors discover a tick attached to them, the camp doctor/nurse should remove the tick using pointed tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. They should pull the tick straight out, taking care not to twist or squish it, and wash the bite site and apply an antiseptic.

Biting deer ticks will not infect someone with Lyme disease or one of the other tick-borne diseases unless the tick itself is infected. If at all possible, any tick that is pulled off of your child’s body should be sent to a tick testing lab for a determination as to whether or not it is infected with any disease organisms. After following the steps listed above, campers should contact their parents, who should seek the assistance of their family health care provider for advice on initiating prophylactic treatment. Time is of the essence and removing ticks promptly, and taking the correct precautionary measures for medical support and treatment immediately, can prevent the transmission of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

There are also preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of being bitten. If your children are at camp in forested or other outdoor environments, it is strongly recommended that you pack tick repellent clothing for them. You should provide four or five sets of treated clothing for them to take to camp. The clothing should be treated with permethrin, an insecticide which repels and kills ticks, and which has been approved by the EPA for use on clothing. You can treat your own clothing and footwear with permethrin spray (good for about five washings), or purchase pre-treated clothing (good for up to 70 washings) by brands such as Insect Shield, ExOfficio’s BugsAway or ElimiTick from retailers like L.L. Bean and Eastern Mountain Sports. Wearing an EPA-approved insect repellent on exposed skin parts will also provide added protection, but by itself, does not work nearly as effectively as tick repellent clothing.

To further safeguard against Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, campers should constantly monitor their own state of health. If they find they are developing flu-like or other unusual symptoms at camp, they should promptly seek assistance from the camp doctor/nurse. Anyone who wishes to seek medical help for Lyme or tick-borne disease is encouraged to contact a Lyme-literate doctor.

Lyme Disease, Deer Ticks and Campers by Bob Oley

Summer camp is right around the corner, and that means there are lots of details to be taken care of before your children head off to camp. One important detail that often escapes parents’ notice is providing their children with the necessary protection against tick bites, particularly deer ticks, during their stay at camp. Deer ticks are cesspools of disease, and they put your children at risk for Lyme disease as well as other potentially debilitating diseases such as babesiosis, anaplasmosis, bartonella, tularemia and mycoplasma.


How can such a small bug cause such big problems for campers? Ticks are parasites that survive by feeding on the blood of hosts such as mice, chipmunks, birds, squirrels, rabbits and deer. Regrettably, they also feed on your children. While deer ticks are active year round, their peak season of activity begins in May and runs through September. During this time, the nymphal deer tick (about as small as a poppy seed) actively seeks a host, and its bite poses the greatest risk of infecting campers with Lyme disease and other tick-borne co-infections.

Deer ticks require a humid environment to survive and can be found anywhere their hosts live. Thus they can be encountered in a variety of settings including lawns, playing fields, woodlands, along woodland trails, as well as in leaf litter and brush piles. They can also be found near old stone walls, woodpiles, tree stumps and fallen logs, anywhere their hosts make their nests. They have even been found on picnic tables and benches. As alarming as it may sound, deer ticks are out there, just hiding in wait for your unsuspecting children.


When your children are at camp, it is strongly recommended that they wear tick repellent clothing. Other than complete avoidance of tick-infested areas, this one protective measure will do more good to protect your children from tick bites than any other. The clothing should be treated with permethrin, an insecticide which repels and kills ticks and which has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as safe for use on clothing worn by children. As an added benefit, this clothing will also repel mosquitoes and other bothersome insects.

In addition, wearing an EPA-approved insect repellent on exposed skin parts will provide added protection, but should be used in conjunction with tick repellent clothing. The tick repellent you choose for your skin should say on the container that it repels ticks and for how long it does so.


Some simple preventative measures, which are highly recommended for you and your children, include:

  1. Educate your children about ticks, including: the areas they as campers should try to avoid, the tick repellent clothes they should wear, and how to properly use tick repellents on exposed skin. Educating them about ticks is well worth the effort and essential in keeping them safe.
  2. Find out whether the summer camps your children are attending are aware of the dangers posed by ticks and whether they have a tick management program in place to protect campers from ticks. If they do not, it should be cause for concern. As a matter of course, camps should also notify children’s parents immediately when an embedded tick is found on one of their campers, as prompt medical treatment may be advisable.
  3. When doing outside camping activities, your children should wear clothing (T-shirts, sweat shirts, shorts, pants, socks) that is treated with permethrin. This is one of the easiest things to do, and it has big prevention payoffs. You can treat your own children’s clothing (good for 6 washings) or purchase pre-treated clothing (good for 70 washings) with the proprietary Insect Shield label from suppliers such as: REI, LLBean, ExOfficio, Orvis, etc.
  4. If you do not choose to treat your children’s clothing with permethrin, you can send their clothes to be treated at the Insect Shield facility in North Carolina. Clothing will come back looking the same as you sent it but with the permethrin protection bonded to the fabric and good for 70 or more washings. Visit the Insect Shield website, www.insectshield.com, for directions on how this can be easily accomplished.
  5. Spray outdoor shoes (sneakers, sandals, hiking boots, etc.), athletic gear, tennis bags, back packs, camping gear, beach towels (anything that could end up on the ground outside) with permethrin to keep ticks away. This protection will last for about 30 to 40 days when it will start to lose its effectiveness due to exposure to the elements.
  6. Make sure campers wear tick repellent on their exposed skin. The repellent must say on the container that it repels ticks. You can buy insect repellents with synthetic chemicals such as IR3535, Picaridin, and DEET, all of which have been approved by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as effective against ticks. If you prefer using organics, you can try essential oils like Lemon Eucalyptus Oil and Cedar Oil. Most of these tick repellents will work for 4 to 6 hours, so they may need to be applied a couple of times per day depending on what outdoor camp activities are taking place.
  7. Teach children how to properly apply tick repellent. If children are younger than 10 years old, you may want them to seek the help of camp counselors in applying it.
  8. If your children attend a day camp, keep their outside clothes outside your home, as ticks can be on clothing from outdoor activities. When your children come home at the end of the camp day, put their clothes in a separate hamper in the mud room or garage if possible. As soon as you can, put their clothes in the clothes dryer on high heat for 20 to 30 minutes. The dry heat will effectively kill any ticks that may be on them.
  9. Educate your children on how to conduct body checks for ticks following outside activities, as well as at night before they go to bed. Ticks like to attach around moist areas of the body, and can often be found between the toes, behind the knees, in the navel and groin areas, armpits, back of neck, skin creases, and hair. Your children can never check themselves too often for ticks, as they can be very hard to find.

When children arrive at camp, you want them to be able to enjoy themselves. By taking these personal protective and preventive measures for your children, you can ensure their camp experience is incredible. Don’t be hasty; your children’s health may depend on it. Take the time to follow through on these sensible recommendations. Educate your children about ticks and tick-borne diseases so when they do get to camp, they will be fully prepared for the ticks, which will surely be lying in wait for them.

Winter Warning! Beware of Deer Ticks by Bob Oley

Outdoor enthusiasts beware! Whether you are walking your dog, playing winter golf, enjoying cross country skiing, hunting, or just going out to the woodpile to get wood for your fireplace, you need to know that deer ticks are lurking out there, just waiting for you to make an appearance. Unfortunately for all of us, deer ticks do not disappear during the winter months, and can be quite active all year round.

During the spring, summer and early fall months, the species of ticks you might encounter in different parts of the country can include the deer tick, American dog tick, Lone Star tick, Gulf Coast tick, and the Rocky Mountain Wood tick. And infectious diseases this all-star cast of ticks can transmit to people include Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and Colorado tick fever.

Fortunately, once we enter the latter part of the fall season, most of these infected ticks disappear, with the notable exception of the deer tick. The reason for this has to do with a phase these ticks go through called diapause. As the average daytime temperatures begin to drop and the days get shorter, these ticks slow down their metabolism and stop looking for a host to feed on. Simply put, they wait out the cold winter months in the refuge of the leaf litter or some similarly protected microenvironment, and generally do not become active again until the following spring.

Regrettably for us, deer ticks do not go into this resting diapause state. Throughout the winter months, the adult female deer tick (about the size of a sesame seed) is looking for a host to get the blood meal she will need to lay her eggs in the spring before she dies. The adult male deer tick generally does not feed on a host, but is looking only to mate with his female counterpart.

The one bit of good news in this bad news scenario is that deer ticks, which are cold blooded invertebrates, will not actively look for a host to feed on if the temperature is below 32 degrees and the ground is frozen or covered with snow. However, given the number of increasingly warm winter days we are experiencing, more and more deer ticks will be looking for a host all winter long. This spells big trouble for anyone who ventures outside during the winter months – which is pretty much each and every one of us.

Deer ticks are waiting for you anywhere there is leaf litter, grass, brush and woodlands, and around your homes where they can sense the carbon dioxide in your breath, the heat of your body, and the vibrations of your steps as you walk. And once you make contact with them, they grab onto you in an instant and start climbing up your clothing until they find exposed skin into which they can insert their mouthparts for a blood meal. There they will stay attached for several days, most oftentimes on unseen areas of the body including the back of your head, hair, armpit, groin, back of the knees, navel, and your back.

Do not make the mistake of thinking you are safe from having to worry about ticks and the tick-borne diseases they carry in the colder winter months. Always be aware of your environment and maintain your guard against ticks when you enjoy outdoor activities. Carefully check yourselves, your children and your pets for ticks after coming in from outside, use insect repellents on your clothing and skin whenever possible, and protect your pets with topical sprays and spot-on products.