As more and more deer are calling Staten Island home and bringing with them an increase of deer tick, many residents are feeling a bit “ticked-off!”
It’s good to know that not all ticks are infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and your risk is greatly reduced if the tick is removed within the first 36 hours after attachment. Additionally, early treatment of Lyme disease with antibiotics almost always results in a full cure. However, early detection is the key, as the chances of a complete cure decrease if treatment is delayed.
Ticks cannot jump or fly. They can only crawl, getting on to humans and animals through direct contact, after which they generally climb upward.
Prevention is clearly the best course of action. With some diligence and careful planning, you can still enjoy the summer outdoors with your family.
It is best to avoid tick-infested areas and contact with lawn and gardens, tall grass, brush and shrubs, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls.
Wear tightly-woven light colored clothing so you can spot ticks more easily.
Tuck pant legs into socks or boot and tuck shirts into pants when you are out in grassy areas. Wear closed shoes outside.
Don’t leave long hair loose.
Visually check clothes and exposed skin frequently when outdoors and again when you are back indoors.
Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks on your body.
Removing a Tick
If a tick is found on the body, it is critical to remove it immediately. Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion. Wash the area with a disinfectant.
DO NOT touch the tick with your bare hands.
DO NOT squeeze the body of the tick as this may increase your risk of infection.
DO NOT put alcohol, nail polish remover or Vaseline on the tick.
DO NOT put a hot match or cigarette on the tick in an effort to make it “back out.”
DO NOT use your fingers to remove the tick.
These methods do not work and only increase the likelihood the tick will transmit Lyme disease to you. Applying alcohol, nail polish remover, or a hot match can irritate a tick and cause it to regurgitate its gut contents into your skin. The gut contents of a tick can contain the Lyme disease-causing bacterium.
While removing a tick, if the tick’s mouthparts break off and remain in your skin, don’t worry. The mouthparts alone cannot transmit Lyme disease, because the infective body of the tick is no longer attached. The mouthparts can be left alone. They will dry up and fall out by themselves in a few days, or you can remove them as you would a splinter.
What to Look For
Watch the site of the bite for the appearance of a rash 3 to 30 days after the bite. The rash will usually be at least 2 inches in diameter initially and will gradually expand to several inches in size. Rashes smaller than the size of a quarter are usually a reaction to the bite itself and do not mean you have Lyme disease.
In most cases, the rash indicating Lyme disease resembles a two-inch size bullseye at the site of the insect bite. Infected people may experience chills and fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, muscle and/or joint pain, and swollen glands. If left untreated, more severe symptoms may occur, affecting the skin, nervous system, heart and/or joints.
If you develop this type of rash or flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately.
Creating a Tick-Free Zone Around Your Home
While deer ticks are most abundant in wooded areas, they are also commonly found in our lawns and shrubs. There are a number of measures homeowners can take to reduce the possibility of being bitten by a tick on their property. Although it may not be possible to create a totally tick-free zone, taking the following precautions will greatly reduce the tick population in your yard.
- Keep grass mowed.
- Remove leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn.
- Restrict the use of groundcover, such as pachysandra in areas frequented by family and roaming pets.
- Remove brush and leaves around stonewalls and wood piles.
- Discourage rodent activity. Clean up and seal stonewalls and small openings around the home.
- Manage pet activity; keep dogs and cats out of the woods to reduce ticks brought into the home.
- Use plantings that do not attract deer
- Move children’s swing sets and sand boxes away from the woodland edge and place them on a wood chip or mulch type foundation.
- Trim tree branches and shrubs around the lawn edge to let in more sunlight.
Children, Pregnant Women and Repellents
As with chemical exposures in general, pregnant women should take care to avoid exposures to repellents when practical, as the developing baby may be vulnerable.
Children may be at greater risk for health effects from repellents, in part, because their exposure may be greater. Use netting over strollers, playpens, etc. to reduce the need for repellents.
Children should not be allowed to apply repellents to themselves. When applying repellent, use a small amount. Never apply repellents to the hands of young children because it may wind up in their eyes or mouth.
Click here for more information about Lyme Disease and Prevention from the New York State Department of Health.