Do your tick checks
Summertime is meant for fun, rest and relaxation and enjoying the company of friends and family with all that Maine has to offer. When you go to the beach, you bring sunscreen. You have a plan. When you go boating, you wear life vests. You have a plan. And when you venture outdoors, you also need a plan. Did you know that children ages 5-14 and adults over 64 make up the highest category of “at-risk” for new cases of Lyme and tick-borne diseases each year? Which is why when we come in from spending time outdoors, we need to do our tick checks, we need to teach children how to appropriately do tick checks and as care givers, we need to check our seniors.
What is a tick check?
It’s a methodical process of looking over your body top to bottom for nymph and adult ticks that you may have unknowingly brought inside with you. Ticks crawl from the ground up looking for the perfect place to feed upon and they thrive on moist, dark areas and where the skin is the thinnest (behind ear and knees) are prime spots for feeding.
The best way to do a tick check is to remove your clothing and then check the following areas: Under the arms, in/around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in your hair, between the legs/groin area and around your waistline. Nymph ticks are no larger than a poppy seed and are often missed. Use a mirror for hard to see places. You can also shower using shampoos and body washes that contain ingredients like rosemary, eucalyptus and tea tree oil that repels and washes out any ticks you may have missed while checking your hair. Check yourself, your spouse, your children and your pets (Remember: tea tree oil is not safe for pets).
While you’re showing, toss your clothing into the dryer for a minimum of 10 minutes on high heat. Ticks cannot survive in dry environments and this will remove and kill any ticks that may have latched onto your clothing. Then you can wash your clothing. Dryer first, then wash. If you have pre-treated your clothing with Permethrin (which you can find at the local hardware stores), tossing them in the dryer is just another safety layer of prevention to kill any ticks that have made their way into your home.
If you are noticing an increase of ticks where you live, then you will need to increase your use of prevention products. There are safe and effective products for skin and pets of all ages. If you haven’t done so already, consider having your yard or camp area treated. There are Do-It-Yourself products available at the local hardware stores or better yet, why not hire in the professionals who will come, give you a free affordable estimate and treat your yard, giving you peace of mind as you enjoy outdoor activities. Clean your home or camp with products that repel is another added benefit to rid your home of ticks. For more information about prevention, visit www.mldse.org and click on the Prevention tab.
Paula is the president of the MLDSE, the co-chair of the Access to Care Services and Patient Support subcommittee of the Federal HHS Tick-borne Disease Working Group, the Maine-partner of the national Lyme Disease Association, member of Maine’s CDC Vector-borne Workgroup and active in Maine’s Lyme legislation. You can reach her at email@example.com and visit her website www.mldse.org