What makes you tick? Probably not ticks.
Since the late 1990s, reported cases of Lyme disease have tripled in number. And this year, after observing a spike in tick-borne illnesses across the country, scientists have reported this camping season could be the worst tick season in years. They give credit (or blame) to the white-footed mice, able carriers of Lyme disease, who are feasting on copious amounts of acorns to thrive in number and play host to ticks. Experts also say that warmer weather fueled by climate change allows ticks to remain active longer, with more opportunity to venture into places formerly too frigid—introducing their pathogens to new regions of North America. Even during a run of severe winter days, ticks are able to bury deeply into the soil to survive. Ticks are now most prevalent in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest. But everyone who plans to camp this summer should learn the facts about tick bites.
Make a fortress around your feet. Ticks don’t fly or land on you; they crawl up your body. Feet and ankles are the way ticks gain access to the body. Watch your legs, wear close-toed shoes, and use tick-killing repellants on both shoes and socks. And though it may be a nerdy look, try tucking your pants into your socks. Lyme disease is never in style!
Beware black legs. Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are commonly carried by black-legged ticks, which are most active between May and July. Black-legged ticks have doubled in number in the last 20 years.
Repel the rascals. Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. Contrary to myth, DEET is not harmful.
Remove immediately. Don’t waste time trying to “coax” a tick off your skin or trying a folk remedy like Vaseline, nail polish, or burnt match heads. Grab the tick with tweezers as close as possible to the skin, and pull straight out.
Watch for symptoms. Sometimes contracting Lyme disease leads to noticeable symptoms: a bulls-eye rash at the site of the tick bite, facial paralysis, and even swollen knees. But it’s not always obvious, and could lead to chronic complications such as memory problems, heart arrhythmia, and debilitating arthritis. If you experience visible symptoms or any fever, aches, fatigue, and joint pain, it’s best to seek medical attention immediately. Early intervention decreases the risk of serious complications.
Scrub and soak. Take a shower, give your children a bath, and dry clothing on high heat for 10 minutes. Have a spouse or friend check your back, neck, and scalp.