Spring finally came to the Midwest this weekend and like many homeowners, it was time to check out my garden and see what perennials survived the long winter. As I washed up after clearing dead foliage, I ran my hand at the back of my head and felt a small "scab"...but soon found out it was a little reddish tick that had not yet embedded in my skin and was alive and well!!
So, all you outdoor types, it is time to start tick patrol! Lyme disease--spread by tick bites, is the most common occurring vector-borne disease in the United States. An estimated 300,000 infections occur each year only about 10% get reported by state health departments. The risk is greatest in New England, the mid- Atlantic states and the upper Midwest (my cottage is in the Indiana Dunes--- a hotbed for ticks!).
Here are a few ways to protect yourself:
- Avoid tall grassy and wooded areas
- Use a repellent with DEET (skin and clothing--up to 20% concentrate) or permethrin (clothing and gear)
- Perform daily tick checks then you come inside. Be sure to check under the arms, around the ears, belly button, back of knees, around all body hair, between legs and around waist.
- Remove any tick (http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/removal/index.html)
- If you find a tick that has been attached to your skin for 24 hours or more, after removal, continue to check for any rashes especially one that looks like a bullet target and see a health provider if you do.
- Check your family pets and if you are in a woody area, consider a tick collar.
- Modify your landscape making it less desirable for ticks (remove litter, clear vegetation around your patio, etc.)
- Don't encourage deer to hang out on your property...they are pretty, but adult ticks thrive on them!
- Remember, they are very tiny and easy to miss!
To learn more about Lyme disease visit: http://www.medicinenet.com/lyme_disease/article.htm
With some precautions, enjoy the summer!