If you’re a resident of the Adirondacks or if you’ve taken a vacation here within the last six months, you can confirm that this past winter has been one of the worst in recent memory, even by the lofty Northeast winter standards. While this did a number on maple syrup production, and may have even damaged your property (or your spirit), it did nothing to stop the surge of ticks that are waiting for you in the Adirondack wilderness.
Photo Credit: Tick via photopin (license)
Actually, the snow helped the ticks. According to the Associated Press, “Researchers focused on ticks and the debilitating diseases they spread say the heavy snow that blanketed the Northeast this winter was like a cozy quilt for baby backlegged [deer] ticks that are now questing for blood as the weather warms up.”
And these bloodsuckers aren’t confined to wooded areas and fields with tall vegetation, either. They’ve been found in city parks, on college campuses, and at playgrounds too, which puts you at risk of contracting Lyme disease in many different environments.
Researchers believe that if this winter had been cold, but not so snowy, the ticks may have frozen and populations would have been reduced. Fortunately, a dry spell in the spring or summer could help to contain the soaring number of ticks.
In addition to Lyme disease, the dangerous infection that is the most well-known affliction caused by tick bites, deer ticks can also carry and spread babesiosis (a bacterial infection) and a rare Powassan virus (which attacks the brain). In light of these facts, it is crucial that you protect yourself, your children, and your pets when you spend time outside.
Here are some tips from the CDC for preventing tick bites on people:
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
- Walk in the center of trails
- Use repellents that contain 20-30% DEET
- Use products that contain permethrin on clothing and gear
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Be sure to check yourself and children in the following places: under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in the hair
- Carefully examine clothing, gear, and pets
- Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks
If you find a tick, remain calm and remove it as quickly as possible. The goal is to keep the tick’s head and mouth attached to the rest of its body – if those parts remain stuck to your skin, it increases the likelihood of infection.
To remove a tick using tweezers, follow these steps:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure – don’t twist or jerk the tick
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet – never crush a tick with your fingers
- Another great way to remove a tick is by using a tool such as TickEase. It’s extremely effective and is small enough to carry in your pocket on a hike!
If you believe you may have been infected or have developed a rash or fever, be sure to report your symptoms to your doctor as soon as possible. Lyme disease and other infections and viruses spread by ticks can have extremely serious consequences, so be sure to take all possible measures to lower your risk!