Snow, rain, thaw, melt, repeat. This pattern tells us that mud season is approaching. For weeks, I’ve heard people comment on the unexpected snowfall levels as they tried in vain to prepare for each coming storm. Sometimes the best laid plans can fail no matter how prepared we think we are.
Winter normally makes its way into spring but for Maine, we also have mud season, where we are frantically dodging frost heaves and pot holes, cringing as we hear dollar signs echoing in our ears with every invisible hit our vehicle takes. No matter how careful we are, there is always going to be that one pot hole that we don’t see.
Though we tend to associate frost heaves and pot holes with the thaw, we must be careful not to forget about the ticks. For every tick encounter, be it visible or not, comes with a price tag.
As the temperatures rise above 32 degrees, and everything thaws out, the ticks come out of hibernation, hungry and looking for their host meal.
While we are distracted by mud season, thankful that the snow is gone and preparing ourselves for spring, we need to also be preparing for tick season. There have been reports (or rather screams) of tick encounters already with comments made “but it’s still February!”
If you have been following my column or blog, or have been to any of our prevention talks, you will recall that we never mentioned a date or even a seasonal timeline that we need to be concerned about ticks. I’ve always mentioned the temperatures and although mentally, we’re trying to say goodbye to old man winter as we long for warmer days, we need to be prepared for what comes with that.
Without a prevention plan in place, you will have a tick encounter. Probably many times over and thinking that just wearing repellent on your skin is going to be enough or just treating your clothing, you’re going to be very disappointed with the number of tick encounters that you will have. I know this because with every prevention talk we give, hands go up and these are the questions that I am addressing. With every conversation that I have with people complaining about having tick encounters, I reiterate the five points of protection and its during that conversation, that it becomes apparent something was missed, leaving the proverbial backdoor open for a tick encounter.
In our prevention talk, we address the importance of layering your repellent to avoid having a tick encounter. We touch on the five important points ~ skin, clothing, pets, home and yard. These are the five areas that we are going to have a tick encounter and so we stress the importance of covering all your bases.
What people don’t realize is that it doesn’t take much to implement your prevention plan. We find most people don’t do it for that reason, they think it’s going to be cumbersome and time consuming.
It’s just a habit that we need to form as we address a seasonal situation = Tick Season.
Scientists have us believing that we only need to be concerned about ticks April through October and I’ve heard from pet owners who were not happy when their scheduled pet treatment stopped but the ticks kept coming. I’ve talked with people having these encounters and I’ve seen the data that shows new tick-borne disease cases year-round.
Even the best laid plans can fail if we are not paying attention to what is going on around us. I was not surprised when science revealed that ticks have an anti-freeze-like enzyme within their bodies that allows them to hibernate. It explained why we were seeing active ticks as soon as the snow and ice melted. Updated information calls for an updated prevention plan.
On our website, there is a Prevention tab that breaks down the five prevention points and gives you some food for thought. There is no wrong answer other than doing nothing. Some people want a chemical-based repellent while others want something more organic and safe for the environment. You can have it both ways and both ways can be very effective in repelling tick encounters and in reducing your exposure to tick-borne disease.
We always say that prevention is very personal, and you do what you feel is best for you and your family, your pets, your home and yard and the environment in which you live. Doing this, even when you leave your home and yard, you are still protected if you’ve treated your skin and clothing. If someone comes to visit you, or a neighbor’s dog wanders into your yard, you still have protection control over those areas. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Spring has sprung means that, all of a sudden, it has stopped snowing, the days are warmer, the grass is green, the trees are blossoming, and everything seems to have new life. It is a time of renewed hope after a bleak, cold winter.
My renewed hope is that you will embrace all the information that I share with you each week, taking prevention more seriously, knowing what exposure to tick-borne disease can mean for you and your family, and that in time, we will begin to see a reduction in the number of new tick-borne disease cases here in Maine. This is a controllable problem but one that requires action on your part!
Mark your calendar: The 4th annual Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education conference, Sat., April 28 at the Augusta Civic Center (8 a.m.-5 p.m.). For more information, visit our website.
Paula Jackson Jones is president of Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education, a nonprofit 501c3 and Maine-partner of the National Lyme Disease Assoc., member of Maine’s CDC Vector-borne Workgroup and active in Lyme legislation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website www.mldse.org