July 2018 Blog

Ah, summer! A time for picnics in the park, barbeques under the shade of the backyard oak tree, and long hikes through the trails of the Adirondacks. For these precious few months, we can revel in the freedom of running barefoot through the grass and inhaling the fresh smell of the moist earth as we plant our summer gardens.

Idyllic, right? There’s just one thing – one very small, but very serious little glitch to these scenarios – the dreaded deer tick.

(Courtesy of Pixabay)

(Courtesy of Pixabay)

Unless you’ve been living under one of those rocks in your garden, you are well aware that the Lyme disease tick infestation in the Northeast has become an Endemic. In other words, there’s a whole lot of it going around.

Now, to clarify, not all ticks are equal. Some ticks do not even bite humans. Others do, but they do not carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. But, don’t let that fact give you a false sense of security. Ticks are serious little predators and their bite can result in equally serious health repercussions.

Does this mean we have to give up our favorite summer past-times? Not at all. But we would be foolish to think that, just because we are in our well-manicured backyard or in the neatly mowed grass at the State Park, we are going to somehow be protected.

I still remember a few summers ago, finding a tiny, blood-sucking hitchhiker burrowed into my belly, just below the waistband.  Can you imagine? I was wearing a top tucked inside my pants and, even with that, the treacherous interloper found his way around the fabric. Believe me, there is nothing more revolting than seeing tiny little legs firmly implanted just under your skin!

I still don’t know if it was a deer tick. The tests were inconclusive. But my physician and I were taking no chances. I willingly submitted to the month-long antibiotic regimen of doxycycline and, fortunately, I have not suffered any long-term consequences.

So, what should we do to avoid getting bitten? What can we do if we have been bitten? And, what strategies can we employ to safeguard our families?

The obvious strategy is to make sure we are covered when walking in grassy or wooded areas. Even if you are in the garden or mowing the lawn, it pays to be cautious. While most of us want to wear fewer clothes on hot summer days, if you are going to be hiking in the woods or mowing high grass, its best to wear long-sleeved, light colored cotton shirts and pants, ideally tucked into socks. I know. You won’t be making the cover of Vogue any time soon. But it’s better than finding the telltale “bulls-eye” on your leg or arm, which is a sure indicator that you have been bitten. 

                                                                                                                  (Courtesy of Pixabay)

If you can’t bring yourself to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when on a hike, stick to hiking on trails and stay in the middle of the trail.

Be diligent about checking your children. Kids love to play and roll around in the grass. Examine them thoroughly from tip to toe and be sure to bathe them after playing outdoors and launder all clothing or towels that have been outside with you. Make sure to use hot water, as well as some eco-friendly non-chlorine bleach in your washer.

You should also shower thoroughly after returning from an outdoor hike or other activity. Ticks love warm, moist places, so pay extra attention to underarms, bra-lines and waistband areas, as well as other “nether” regions😊 And don’t forget your head and the back of your neck. A dear friend of mine discovered a tick that must have been feasting on her precious type O-Negative for the entire day. She didn’t discover it until she was washing her hair in the shower and felt something bulbous and strange stuck to the nape of her neck, just at the hairline – Yuck!!!!

Don’t forget your pets. Check them daily to be sure they’re not bringing any unwanted house guests with them back indoors. Both dogs and cats can contract Lyme disease and should be treated immediately if you discover a tick.

If you do find a tick, it needs to be carefully removed using special tick tweezers. Why not regular old tweezers? If you don’t remove the entire tick, you could get an infection if there are any stray legs or other body parts left behind. Sorry to be so graphic. But, these are things we all need to know so we can safely enjoy our brief but beautiful summers in the Northeast.

(Courtesy of Pixabay)

Until next time, stay healthy and enjoy this beautiful weather!

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