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How To Protect Yourself from the Increasing Tick Population

I think we can all agree that this may have been one of the longest, coldest winters Lake George has faced in recent years. While it may have damaged our spirits, it unfortunately did not cause any damage to the tick population. In fact, it did just the opposite!
photo credit: bubble bath via photopin (license)

The blanket of snow that covered the Northeast for nearly the last six months actually created a “cozy quilt” for baby deer ticks that are now starting their quest for blood as the weather warms up.

But aren’t ticks susceptible to the cold like other insects? That was my thought process, but the incredibly snowy winter seems to have done the tick population a favor by insulating them from the cold, frigid air.
In addition to a rising tick population, it is important to be aware that not only campers, hikers or those in wooded areas are at risk for coming into contact with infected ticks. Ralph Garruto, head of Binghamton University’s tick-borne disease program reported to the Associated Press that plenty of ticks have been found in city parks, playgrounds, work campuses and college campuses. 
While Lyme disease is the most common and well-known disease spread by infected tick bites, there are other diseases to be wary of, as well. Babesiosis, a bacterial infection and the rare but extremely serious Powassan virus which attacks the brain can also be spread by deer ticks.
It’s important to be aware of these facts, but there’s no need to be afraid. We’ve gathered some great tips from the CDC on how to protect yourself and those around you from ticks when spending time outside.
Before going outside…
  • Use a repellant with 20 – 30% DEET on exposed skin.
  • Treat clothing, boots and camping gear with products containing permethrin. There is also pre-treated clothing available for purchase.
  • In addition to wearing enclosed shoes, you should wear long sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and your shirt into your pants.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks easily.
  • Avoid sitting on the ground or stone walls.
  • If you have long hair, tie it back.
  • Educate yourself on ticks. It’s important to remember that ticks live in moist and humid environments, and usually in wooded or grassy areas.
  • An easy way to avoid ticks is to walk in the center of the trail, away from leaf litters or shrubs.
When you come back inside…
  • Check your clothing for ticks and remove them if found.
  • To be extra safe, throw your clothes in the dryer on high heat for at least an hour to kill any ticks you may not have spotted.
  • Conduct a full-body check for ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to make it easier to view all parts of your body.
  • Important places to check that are easily missed are: under the arms, in or around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees and in or around the hair.
  • Make sure to also check anything you may have brought with you. This includes but is not limited to backpacks, pets and camping gear.
What should you do if you find a tick?
  • Remove the attached tick as soon as you can by grasping it with fine-tipped tweezers and pulling straight up.
  • Don’t twist or jerk the tick as this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin which could cause infection.
  • After you remove the tick, clean the bite area and your hands thoroughly with rubbing alcohol, soap and water or an iodine scrub.
  • Dispose of the tick by placing it in a sealed container, submersing it in alcohol, or flushing it down the toilet.
  • It’s important to note that you should never kill a tick by crushing it with your hands.
  • While common folklore has said to cover the attached tick with petroleum jelly to suffocate it, or to paint over it with nail polish, do not follow these remedies! It is crucial to remove the tick as quickly as possible, not to wait until it detaches.
  • Another easy way to remove a tick is by using one of these great TickEase tools, seen below. It’s small enough to keep in your pocket on a hike and is very effective!<A HREF=”http://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?rt=ss_ssw&ServiceVersion=20070822&MarketPlace=US&ID=V20070822%2FUS%2Fm2po-20%2F8003%2Ff5ad66f1-0da7-4f63-979f-7f6fb71e0607&Operation=NoScript”>Amazon.com Widgets</A>
If you develop a bulls-eye shaped rash or fever, see your doctor as soon as possible. Diseases caused by tick bites have the possibility of becoming extremely serious, so the sooner a diagnosis can be made, the quicker it can be treated. And remember, take all necessary precautions to lower your risk!
 
Sources:
The Washington Post / Associated Press
The CDC- Preventing Tick Bites
The CDC- Removing a Tick
NYS Department of Health