Tag Archives: tick season

Don’t Forget It’s Tick Season, Too

by Jennifer Crystal

While everyone is quarantined at home people have one illness in mind: COVID-19. It’s why we wear gloves and masks, why we sanitize anything we touch, and the reason we practice social distancing. Everyone is trying to avoid infection, even those of us who have already had the illness because we don’t know yet if we have any built-in immunity to the novel coronavirus and we have to be wary of reinfection.

But while we’re so busy protecting ourselves from one illness, we can’t leave ourselves vulnerable to another: Lyme disease. Each year, over 427,000 new cases of Lyme disease are reported in the U.S.—that’s more than HIV and breast cancer combined. Ticks are already out in full force and this is predicted to be a particularly bad season. A recent article in The Providence Journal stated, “Because the winter was more mild, more ticks than usual have likely survived until spring and with many more people expected to be outside this year, authorities are concerned that 2020 may be a bad year for tick bites and the transmission of Lyme and other [tick-borne] diseases.”

The problem is not just more ticks, but that people are spending more time outside. With stores and restaurants closed and people feeling trapped inside their homes, they’re going out for walks and hikes. Children are having recess in their own backyards. To maintain social distancing, many people find themselves straying from beaten paths into the woods. While these adventures are vital to mental and physical health, they also increase one’s risk of tick exposure. 

A  friend of mine in Massachusetts recently pulled three ticks off each of her kids during a hike—and this was on a snowy day when they were wearing snowsuits and boots! Another friend in Colorado showed me a classic bulls-eye rash on her child’s leg. Stories like these are not rare, sending people into a panic, especially when the only way to see a doctor is via teleconference. 

So what should we do? The answer is not to stay locked inside. It is to Be Tick AWARE. Five important steps to follow are:

AVOID areas where ticks live. Ticks thrive in wood piles, long grass, leaf piles and beach grass.

WEAR light-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily; this includes a long-sleeved shirt tucked in at the waist, long pants tucked into high socks, closed-toed shoes, and a hat with your hair tucked in, if possible. Do not walk in the grass barefoot or in open sandals, even if it’s a shortcut. 

APPLY EPA-approved tick repellent (such as DEET or picaridin) to skin and insecticide (such as permethrin) to clothing and shoes as directed. 

REMOVE clothing upon entering the home; toss clothes into the dryer at high temperature for 10-15 minutes to kill live ticks. Washing, even in hot water, will not kill them. 

EXAMINE yourself and your pets for ticks daily. Feel for bumps, paying close attention to the back of knees, groin, armpits, in and behind the ears, belly button, and scalp. And check everywhere—ticks love to hide.

Another great tool I’ve found is to wipe yourself or your pet down with a lint roller after spending time outside; the sticky paper may pick up ticks that you haven’t caught by other means. 

If you do find a tick, don’t panic. Instead, remove the tick, send it in for testing, monitor your bite site closely, consult with your doctor, and watch your symptoms (for details on each of these important steps, click here.

It’s especially important to keep Lyme symptoms in mind right now, when we think every ache or fever must be a sign of COVID-19. Remember that flu-like symptoms can also indicate tick-borne illness. If you spend time outdoors and experience fever, fatigue, joint or muscle aches, be sure to talk to your doctor about tick-borne illness as well as COVID-19. To find a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) in your area, visit GLA.org/find.

Despite Lyme and COVID-19, we can’t live in fear. Instead, as I mentioned during my recent webinar with Dr. Daniel Cameron, we have to be smart about protecting ourselves from both illnesses. Do get outside, but stay on paths, at a safe distance from others and from ticks. 

Additional COVID-19 and Lyme Disease Resources:
Webinar: Lyme and COVID-19 Panel
GLA POV: Parallel Pandemics: COVID-19 and Lyme Disease
Blog: Q&A on COVID-19 and Lyme Disease with LLMD
Blog: Personal Patient Experience with COVID-19 and Lyme Disease
Letter: GLA CEO Addresses COVID-19 and GLA Community


jennifer crystal_2

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.

Jennifer Crystal is a writer and educator in Boston. Her memoir about her medical journey is forthcoming. Contact her at [email protected].

tick season_end of summer

End of Summer Season Doesn’t Mean End of Tick Season

by Jennifer Crystal

Tick season does not stop with the end of summer  

 

Last night I had an end-of-summer ice cream with someone who said, “I’ve probably met fifteen people this summer who have Lyme disease. It’s such an urgent problem.” Though I was sorry to hear these individuals were sick, I was glad to hear that they had all been properly and efficiently diagnosed. Patients and doctors alike are becoming more aware of this urgent health threat.

What many don’t realize, however, is that the Lyme disease threat doesn’t disappear with warm summer days. Tick season, and active ticks, are a year-round problem, and it’s important to remain vigilant in the fall as we are in the summer. While it’s the nymphal-stage ticks of spring and early summer we worry about most—predominantly because they’re so microscopic that we often miss them—the larger adult ticks of the current season also transmit tick-borne diseases.

Ticks are especially a danger during this time of year to school children who undertake outdoor sports—or any child who plays outside, be it at home, a park, or school recess. As the weather turns colder, ticks hide out in thick brush and leaf piles. They live in long grass, in wooded areas, and in your garden.

If you, your children or pets spend any time outdoors this fall, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Continue to wear bug spray: We don’t just need repellent for summer hikes and campfires; we need it in the autumn, too. Before going on a fall hike, walking to a playground, or letting your child roll in the grass, be sure to apply repellent.
  • Use repellent wipes: Instead of or in addition to bug spray, you can wipe down your skin with repellent wipes before going outdoors. These are great to put in your child’s backpack or in your own purse—you never know when you might need to walk through a grassy area.
  • Spray your clothes and gear: Bug spray isn’t just for exposed skin. You can buy clothes that are pre-treated with permethrin at many outdoor retailers, or you can buy a bottle and spray everything yourself. Include shoes, clothes, sports bags, and any other type of gear.
  • Carry a tick removal kit: In case of a tick bite, make sure to bring tweezers or tick removal tool, alcohol wipes, and a Ziploc baggie to put the tick in once you’ve pulled it out (see how to properly remove a tick). Mark the date on the bag. It’s recommended you send tick(s) out for testing.
  • Wear long pants and sleeves: This is easier when the weather gets cooler. Light-colored clothing is best, because it’s easier to see a tick on a white shirt than a dark shirt. Nerdy as it may look, it’s also helpful to tuck pants into socks, thereby preventing ticks from climbing up your legs.
  • Carry a small lint brush: Run a lint brush over your hair, skin and clothing after spending time outdoors; the sticky paper can pick up ticks you might miss. I carry a lint brush in my purse and also keep one by my front door.
  • Wash and dry clothes and equipment immediately after use: As soon as you or your young athlete get home, throw clothes, shin guards, and other washable gear in the dryer on high heat for at least 10-15 minutes. Ticks require moisture to survive and will rapidly die in a quick spin in a hot dryer.
  • Bathe after outdoor activity: After stripping your clothes and doing a thorough tick check, shower as soon as you come inside (versus waiting even a few hours, and giving the tick time to sit on your body and feed).
  • Continue to do tick checks every night: Make sure you’re not bringing any bugs into bed. Do a head-to-toe check on yourself, children, and pets. Bath time is a great time to do a once-over on kids. Remember to check in spots like the groin, behind the knees, behind the ears, and the scalp. Always Be Tick AWARE!

Wishing you all a fun and tick-free fall!


jennifer crystal_2

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.

Jennifer Crystal is a writer and educator in Boston. Her memoir One Tick Stopped the Clock is forthcoming. Contact her at [email protected].

Fall Tick Season is in Full Swing

8 Ways to Protect Yourself & Your Family

 

Fall tick season is in full swing and so are popular outdoors activities, whether hiking in the woods to enjoy the peak leaf season, raking, or taking the dog out for a walk through the park.

But fall also brings unwelcome visitors: adult black-legged or deer ticks that can transmit Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. While ticks are commonly found in heavily wooded areas, they also thrive in backyard grasses, gardens, unmanicured hedges and leaf litter. In fact, experts say that the majority of people who develop tick-borne diseases came in contact with the tick that made them sick right in their own backyards.

“Most people think ticks disappear once the weather turns cooler,” says Global Lyme Alliance CEO Scott Santarella, “but they remain active as long as the temperatures are above freezing and the ground is not frozen or covered by snow. It’s crucial for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors to take steps to protect themselves from ticks.”

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the country, with more than 329,000 new cases each year. Lyme has been reported in all 50 U.S. states and 80 countries.  A bite from a tick that transmits Lyme can leave you with a mix of symptoms that range from fatigue and flu-like aches and pains to serious, long-term complications that can affect the brain, joints, nerves, muscles and heart.

blog_early-detection-is-key

“Early detection is crucial, but unfortunately commonly used diagnostic tests miss 55% of positive Lyme cases,” said Santarella. “Without a reliable diagnostic test, it’s all too easy for patients to slip through the cracks and wind up suffering from late stage, debilitating Lyme disease before the disease is even detected.”

Even though the drought conditions that gripped much of the Northeast this summer could have impacted the survival of ticks, who prefer moist, humid conditions, Connecticut’s Chief Entomologist Kirby C. Stafford III, Ph.D. said that the hot, dry summer most likely would not be enough to put a dent in tick populations.

To protect you and your family from ticks this fall season, GLA recommends:

  1. When hiking, walk in the middle of a trail; stay away from bushes and leaf litter.
  2. Do not lean against trees, roadside stone walls, or sit on logs.
  3. When walking through wooded or grassy areas, wear light-colored clothes so you can spot ticks more easily. Wear a long-sleeved shirt if possible and long pants, socks and boots or closed-toe shoes. Tuck your hair in a hat, your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks.
  4. Spray your clothing, socks and shoes with permethrin, an insecticide that kills ticks on contact. You can also buy pre-treated repellent clothing at outdoors retailers.
  5. Apply a tick repellent to exposed skin, preferably DEET of at least 20% concentration or Picaridin. If you’d prefer using organics, try essential oils like lemon eucalyptus.
  6. Once back indoors, remove clothes and toss them into a hot dryer for 10 minutes. The heat will effectively kill the ticks.
  7. Shower or bathe within two hours of coming indoors to wash away any unattached ticks. Feel your entire body for unexpected bumps that could be ticks. Pay special attention to hidden spots—the hairline, scalp, between the toes, behind the knees, around the waistband, in the navel, armpits and groin.
  8. Check your pet. Deer ticks can crawl onto your dog or cat and can attach to you after you touch your pet. Make sure to inspect pets after they’ve been outside. Like you, they’re also susceptible to Lyme.

If you find a tick on your body, it’s important to remove it safely. Use a fine-tipped tweezer to grab the tick “head” as close to the skin as possible and pull it out like a splinter. “Adult ticks have longer mouth-parts,” said Dr. Stafford. “So it can be a little harder to remove them. Don’t yank, just pull gently and firmly.”