Tick Prevention 101
By Beth Aust, RN, Holistic Health Coach
Ticks can be found in a variety of locations such as where the woods/field meet the lawn, wooded areas, tall bush/grass, under leaves, under ground cover, around stone walls, and woodpiles where mice and other small creatures live. If you are going to be outside or going on hikes, etc., it is best to be prepared and act appropriately.
Prevention is the best way to avoid the devastating effects of Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses such as Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever (just to name a few) that can be transmitted by ticks.
There are many different types of ticks, and the black legged tick, or deer tick, is notorious for spreading Lyme Disease and its co-infectors. However, the risk of developing these depends on a number of factors including the type of tick and how long it is attached to the skin.
Here are some tips to prevent ticks:
Avoid where ticks live. If you are hiking, stay to the center of the trail, and avoid hiking or biking in areas that are heavily wooded or overgrown.
Make your yard discouraging for ticks. Keep your lawn mowed, and eliminate wood piles where small animals like squirrels and mice can hide. Consider putting a fence up to keep deer out of your yard.
Consider using “Bait Boxes.” This website link discusses bait boxes, and also has a quick video regarding tick prevention when going outdoors: https://www.consumerreports.org/pest-control/bait-boxes-are-a-safe-way-to-keep-ticks-out-of-your-yard/
Wear clothing that protects against ticks. Clothing acts like a physical barrier between you, the ticks, and other bugs. Cover up as much as possible, and limit the amount of exposed skin. It is recommended that you wear closed toe shoes, shin high socks, long sleeves, and long pants. You can even tuck in your pant legs into your socks, which is not a fashion statement, however, a simple and effective way to hinder tick attachment.
You may choose to use a chemical spray. These usually include Deet or permethrin, however, you need to understand the risks that may come with those ingredients. Do your own research as many of these ingredients can cause respiratory issues or other harmful health issues. Dr. Puc recommends nonchemical alternatives if possible.
Au Natural. There are some natural ways to repel ticks that you may choose to use in your prevention toolbox. The Farmer’s Almanac shares that regular consumption of garlic or garlic capsules reduces the risk of tick bites. The garlic causes the body to excrete a scent that ticks despise. We also sell an all-natural organic, GMO free, DEET free repellant at the IM of CNY office that comes in 3 different sizes for you and your family’s outdoor and traveling needs.
Ticks hate the smell of lemon, orange, cinnamon, lavender, peppermint, and rose geranium so they’ll avoid latching on to anything that smells of those items. Healthline has an article on essential oils and ticks you can read here: https://www.healthline.com/health/essential-oils-for-repelling-ticks#clove-bud
If your pet goes outdoors, use tick collars or tags, spray shampoos, and medications to prevent ticks. Also check your pet for ticks when they return inside. Don't sleep with your pet, as ticks can more easily transfer from your pet to you.
After you have been outside, do a tick check. Inspect every part of your body for ticks as they can be as small as a poppy seed. Make sure you check between joints (behind the knees, elbows, armpits), behind your ears, and anywhere covered in hair as ticks love warm, dark places.
Check your clothing for ticks. They love hanging out on clothing, and can be brought into your home this way as well. Carefully inspect outer layers of clothes, and your gear. You can throw your clothes into the dryer and tumble dry for 10-15 minutes on the hottest heat setting.
Take a shower after a hike or time outdoors. This is an easy way to wash off any unnoticed ticks, and an easy way to perform a tick check.
If you find a tick:
If you see a tick crawling on your clothing, or if you have ventured into a known tick-infested area, you should do the following:
Grab the lint roller (take it with you on outings!). A sticky tape lint roller is excellent for picking ticks of any size off your skin and clothing. Carry one with you and brush it over your skin and clothes (and pet’s fur) periodically.
Toss your clothing into a hot dryer for 10 to 15 minutes to kill any lurking ticks.
Do a full body check on yourself, family members, and pets. Brush your hair and jump in the shower. Rinse pets using the outdoor hose before heading inside.
If you have a tick attached to your body:
Use fine-tipped tweezers or a specially made tick removal device to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
Pull upward with steady, even pressure. You want to pull the tick straight out (sometimes it makes a popping noise). Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands withrubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Place the tick in a plastic bag so it can be sent to a tick-testing site for analysis of tick-related pathogens. Also, please call our office.
You may choose to send the tick for testing to see if it carries Lyme or any tick-borne co-infections. There are several labs that offer tick testing:
Thangamani Lab at SUNY offers free testing. www.thangamani-labs.com (Please note, the Bartonella test is not done at this lab).
Connecticut Vet Medical Diagnostic Lab. : www.cvmdl.uconn.edu
Laboratory of Medical Zoology. Https://www.tickreport.com/pricing
TickCheck Tick Testing, LLC www.tickcheck.com
When sending a tick to a lab:
Best way to ship a tick to a lab is to put the intact tick (dead/alive) in a Ziplock bag with a piece of moist tissue paper or grass. Make sure there is air in the bag so that during shipping the tick does not get crushed.
Intact ticks can be stored in a Ziplock bag and frozen until you have a moment to send them in for testing.
If you have a tick bite, contact your health care provider. If you are a patient of IM of CNY, please let us know as soon as possible as Dr. Puc or one of her associates may choose to see you to evaluate you at a post tick bite appointment to determine the best next plan of action.
Additional info can be found at https://tickencounter.org/
Remember that prevention is key to avoiding tick bites and decreasing the chance of contracting tick-borne disease. Should you find yourself in the situation of having a tick bite, or attached tick, please try to get in to see us as soon as possible for an acute tick bite visit as early treatment is essential to avoid the risk of chronic Lyme and other co-infectors.