This time of year black legged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, are an unwanted guest. This year, as we saw last year, we are experiencing an especially bad tick season.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferiand and is spread to humans by ticks. Ticks (a parasite) survive by finding a host (another animal) to feed on its blood. While not all ticks carry Lyme Disease, in New England the black-legged tick, more commonly known as the deer tick, can transmit the bacterial infection to other animals including humans.
Little known fact!:
Lyme Disease is named for the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where in 1975 the unusually high rate of adolescent arthritis was being reported. Three years later, in 1978, researchers discovered that the disease that was causing adolescent arthritis was actually transmitted by the deer tick, hence the name Lyme Disease.
This year especially, with so much snow insulating the ground this past winter, the ground kept warmer, providing a perfect breeding ground for ticks, and in particular, here in the northeast, deer ticks.
How to Know what to Do if Bitten By a Deer Tick:
Avoid getting bit by a tick!:
Use an insect repellent containing the ingredient Deet. For more info on childrens use of Deet see the CDC’s Insect repellent Use and Safety
Blacklegged ticks live primarily 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 vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs. To avoid ticks, walk in the center of trails and avoid tall vegetation. Wear socks and pants when at all possible.
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard.
Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body Take special care to check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- Behind the ears
- In the scalp
- Inside the belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around all body hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
Check your clothing and pets for ticks because ticks may be carried into the house on clothing and pets. Both should be examined carefully, and any ticks that are found should be removed. Placing clothes into a dryer on high heat effectively kills ticks.
Keep your pet deer tick safe as well:
- Use a veterinary prescribed or strong tick repellant spot or collar
- Make sure to follow instructions and change collar as directed
- Try and limit their access to tall grass and shrubs
How do you know if the tick you’ve been bitten by puts you at risk for Lyme Disease?
It’s important that you know what to do if bitten by a deer tick. First, you want to determine if it was a deer tick. Deer ticks are by and large smaller than all other ticks. Although called deer ticks, they are often also carried by white footed mice and other rodents.
Secondly, check for symptoms such as fatigue, joint aches and pains, a target shaped rash and low-grade fevers or chills. If you or your child is bit by a tick remove it and bring it into your doctor’s office. However, as it can be rather difficult for non-medically trained people to extract the entire tick we recommended people bitten by ticks go to a facility such as an urgent care center to extract the tick completely.