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Tick Season is here

New England Tick Season is here

Tick season is during the warmer months of the year, April through September. We had a cold and snowy winter here in New England and some parts of northern New England still have snow on the ground.

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Ticks are able to winter over in leaf litter on the forest floor, or your back yard. They are hearty little buggers. So even though you still have the furnace on, ticks are emerging from their winter rest.

Ticks transmit numerous diseases, here in New England the primary concern is Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease. The black-legged, or deer tick, is the primary vector for Lyme Disease. The Massachusetts Town of Dover, Board of Health’s Lyme Disease Committee issued a tick warning on April 13th. The CDC reports that in 2012, 95% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 13 states, including 5 of the 6 New England states.

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

While common in only 13 states, Lyme was the 7th most reported disease in the entire country. The Minnesota Department of Public Health provides the following on the black-legged, or Deer Tick:

Where do we find black-legged ticks?

  • black-legged ticks live in wooded, brushy areas that provide food and cover for white-footed mice, deer and other mammals.
    • This habitat also provides the humidity ticks need to survive.
  • Exposure to ticks may be greatest in the woods (especially along trails) and the fringe area between the woods and border.
  • black-legged ticks search for a host from the tips of low-lying vegetation and shrubs, not from trees.
    • Generally, ticks attach to a person or animal near ground level.
  • black-legged ticks crawl; they do not jump or fly. They grab onto people or animals that brush against vegetation, and then they crawl upwards to find a place to bite.
  • White-tailed deer live throughout Minnesota, but black-legged ticks are not found everywhere that deer live.

What can be done to control tick populations?

There are measures you can take to reduce the number of ticks around your home. In general, drier conditions mean fewer black-legged ticks:

  • Keep lawns mowed, brush trimmed, and leaf litter away from the home.
  • Keep trails or paths in wooded areas on your property clear of vegetation

Protection and Repellent

The best way to avoid a tick borne disease such as Lyme or Rocky Mountain spotted fever is to avoid their habitat. For active outdoor enthusiasts such as runners, hikers, cyclists etc., avoidance is difficult. As such, we need to pay attention to clothing, repellant and our surroundings.

The Mass Health and Human Services Division and the CDC offer this advice for dealing with ticks:

When going into an area likely to have ticks:

  • Stick to main pathways and the center of trails when hiking.
  • Wear a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt with long pants and tuck your pants into your socks. This may be difficult to do when the weather is hot, but it will help keep ticks away from your skin and make it easier to spot a tick on your clothing.
  • Use bug repellents. Repellents that contain DEET can be used on your exposed skin. Permethrin is a product that can be used on your clothes. Always follow the product instructions and use repellents with no more than 30-35% DEET on adults and 10-15% DEET on children. Never use insect repellents on infants. There are fact sheets containing more information about repellents at mass.gov/dph/epi

Avoidance and Protection

Many ticks hang on the edges of leaves and branches and wait for their victim to approach. Some ticks can smell the carbon dioxide in your breath and some can even tell if a victim is approaching by seeing their victim’s shadow!

Ticks cannot fly or jump. In order for them to get onto you, you have to brush against the branch or leaf that they are hanging on to. That is why experts hiking in the middle of the trail where you are less likely to brush up against plants with ticks hanging on them, waiting for you.

I see runners brush up against bushes all the time. Branches hang over sidewalks and tree branches hang to low to avoid. We all do this. After dark it is often too dangerous to run in the street so we trade one danger for another. I often think about walking along our common running routes and clipping off low hanging branches or bushes that stick out into the sidewalk.

The CDC has a great web site with more information on ticks than you probably want to know. They have a page that shows the general distribution of various species of ticks in the US, how to remove a tick and other interesting statistics. The CDC has additional information to help you avoid tick bites here.

Tick Lifecycle

Preventing tick bites

The best thing to do is try and avoid the habitat where you are likely to find ticks such as the woods and fields. This can be difficult to do if you enjoy the outdoors. The CDC provides these recommendations:

Before You Go Outdoors

•Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through leaf litter or near shrubs. Always walk in the center of trails in order to avoid contact with ticks.

•Products containing permethrin kill ticks. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings.

•Use a repellent with DEET on skin. Repellents containing 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can protect up to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding the hands, eyes, and mouth. For detailed information about using DEET on children, see recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

After You Come Indoors:

Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Placing clothes into a dryer on high heat for at least an hour effectively kills ticks.

Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.

Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, which even includes your back yard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:

•Under the arms

•In and around the ears

•Inside belly button

•Back of the knees

•In and around the hair

•Between the legs

•Around the waist

I would recommend going to their website for additional information to help keep you safe. CDC LINK.

Conclusion

I don’t mean to scare you into staying indoors all summer and giving up the activities you enjoy. Awareness is your best defense. Understand where you are likely to encounter ticks and take appropriate steps to protect yourself. When you come back to your house from an outdoor activity give yourself a good once over and take a shower if possible. Remember that ticks could be on your clothes also, so get them into the wash as soon as possible. If you have pets be sure to take care of them also. This will not only protect their health, but could also protect your health. I hope this information and the links I have provided are helpful to you.

Run well my friends.

Andy


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