It was a harsh winter, but those nasty little critters were snuggled in their winter nests in the leaf litter. It probably did not get cold enough to kill them see this research paper for the information. So, while you thought it might be safe to go back outside without protection, think again. This winter made us miserable. It had little effect on the tick!
Ticks carry diseases: Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, STARI, TBRF,Tularemia, 364D Rickettsioisis, to name a few. (http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases). Click the link to read about them and become familiar with the symptoms. Learn about the diseases and their treatments from experts. Be wary of governmental agencies that do not have the best interest of the patient as their motivation. I found a good source of information about Lyme disease AND other tickborne diseases at LymeDiease.org . Be warned. This site might challenge what you think you know about lyme disease and its effects.
Cases of Lyme disease have been reported in all 50 states, not just in the Northeastern US. Some states do not require doctors to report the diagnosis of some of these diseases, so it might not be apparent that a certain disease is present in your locale. Doctors misdiagnose these diseases. The tests are inadequate. The suggested treatments are even more inadequate.
Now that you are thinking of staying indoors forever, let me encourage you to go outside. Using some common sense and care, you can play outside just as you always have. After all, we know that overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays can cause skin cancer. Yet, we still go outside. We know that there are sharks in the water, but we still swim in the ocean. Yes, there are ticks in the woods, fields, and lawns. If you have a pet that goes outdoors, the ticks might be in your carpet, on your furniture, or in your bed! Ask your veterinarian about tick prevention for your pets to help with the indoor incidence of ticks.
When you go outside, use an insect repellent. Get some suggestions from LymeDisease.org or a sage outdoorsman. I use permethrins on my clothes and an insect repellent with DEET on my skin. As with any chemicals, there are downsides to each. Permethrins have a bad effect on cats. Probably not a good choice if Fluffy makes its bed in your laundry. Permethrins get absorbed into your body at up to 2% of the application (permethrin study). DEET is blamed for neurological problems. Studies show that up to 17% of the DEET applied gets absorbed into your body. ( deet study ) So, you have to choose between getting the bad stuff from the chemicals, or trying something more natural, like chrysanthemum-based repellents. I have no experience with these, therefore I leave it to you to do the research.
There is a type of long-underwear that will keep ticks from attaching to the body area that it covers. One brand is “bugskinz” and another is “Rhynoskin“. I do not like to shop there, but you can get the latter at Walmart or Bass Pro Shops. There are chemically treated clothes as well. I find that the socks irritate my feet. I have not tried other articles of clothing, but wearing chemical impregnated clothing is a choice I am not ready to make.
You have tried your best to keep the ticks from attaching, but you have one anyway. DO NOT USE OLD HOME REMEDIES TO REMOVE THE TICK!!!! Yes, I am shouting. A tick regurgitates prior to detaching by itself. If you cover it in soap, butter, sap, oil, or other substance, touch it with a hot match, or squeeze its body, it WILL regurgitate into the wound. Your task is to remove the whole tick without the critter regurgitating. I use a spring-loaded tweezer device called the “De-Ticker“. It never fails me. My friend uses a spoon-like device called the “Tick Twister“. You should find one that you like and use it. Tweezers might squeeze the body of the tick, so I do not suggest using them.
Have someone check you for ticks. When checking look closely at the areas that constrict their movement such as the belt line, shoulders, underwear line, bra-strap area and neckline. Remember that a tick can be smaller than a poppy seed. Check closely. If you find one, remove it. I found one in my son’s belly-button. It was difficult to remove that one. There is the chance of a bacterial infection at the bite just like any other wound. So, treat the wound as you would any other minor cut or scrape by keeping it clean.
If you develop a rash anywhere on your body, get to the doctor. It is important to know that the rash does not develop in every case of Lyme disease. Sometimes, the disease goes unnoticed, therefore undiagnosed, for months. When in doubt, call your doctor. Learn the symptoms of Lyme disease and the other tickborne diseases. Be firm with your doctor about correct testing and adequate treatment. Learn about these things at the LymeDisease.org website.
Have fun outside. Don’t worry about these dangers, but be aware of them. Use common sense when trying to prevent infection. Educate yourself about tickborne diseases.