It seems you can’t read the news without hearing about the increase in ticks and tick-borne illnesses in our region. This year will likely bring another banner year of ticks and their diseases to the state. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 New Hampshire had the tenth highest instances of tick-born illness (13,710) in the nation. Diseases such as Lyme, Anaplasmosis and B. miyamotoi are caused by North American ticks such as the black-legged or deer tick. These diseases, if left unchecked can cause bacterial infections and multiple health problems including, muscle and joint problems, fatigue, fevers and headaches. Long-term effects to those infected can be devastating and debilitating.
What’s causing the increase in ticks? Experts note several reasons:
- Changing climates – ticks are now flourishing in areas once thought to be too cold, even coming back to life even when frozen to -10 degrees.
- Evolving land usage – more clear-cut land means more scrub areas which cater to mice and deer, the perfect hosts for ticks.
- More encroaching suburbs – diminishing natural areas bring more deer closer to neighborhoods and nearer to humans.
- Change in bird patterns – with the warming climate, new species of birds arrive to our areas and the ticks carried by them land in our own backyards.
- Big Acorn years – Last year was a banner year for acorns which means more mice… and more ticks.
Despite the increase in these pesky creatures, it is still safe to be outside enjoying nature. All it takes is to use caution when hiking, walking the dog or just hanging out in the back yard.
Here are a few easy tips to help keep ticks away:
- Wear Light colored clothing when outdoors or hiking. This will help you see the ticks before they attach.
- Wear long pants and tuck your socks into your pant leg.
- Spray your clothes with DEET insect repellent before you hike
- Stay on marked trails
- Check for ticks on yourself and your pets
When you return home, be sure to do a thorough tick check on your entire body, your child’s and your pet’s. Ticks tend to crawl up and look for warm places to latch on. Pay close attention to the areas with creases or where fabric and body intersect. If you do find a tick remove it immediately. The sooner you can get it off your body, the less chance it will have to infect you or your loved one. If you do find a tick, don’t panic. Remove the tick right away.
To remove the tick:
Use tweezers and pinch the tick as close to the skin as possible, pull straight up with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or wiggle. If the head or mouth part remains it is ok. Just remove as much as you can easily and clean the area with antiseptic. In a few days the spot will dry out and the remaining parts will fall away.
Lyme disease is unlikely if the tick is attached for a short time
According to the Mayo clinic, Lyme infection is unlikely if the tick is attached for less than 36 to 48 hours. Not all ticks carry Lyme or other diseases, and not all people who are bitten will get ill. Call your provider if you notice symptoms 3-30 days after your tick bite such as a bulls-eye type rash radiating from the bite area. Or if you have a fever, headaches or lethargy that won’t seem to go away. Your provider may test you for Lyme or other diseases and treat you with antibiotics.
Caption: Some people who have Lyme disease will have a red, bull’s eye rash. Others will not. Photo courtesy of WebMD
Caption: The black-legged or “deer” tick is the carrier of Lyme disease. In its larva stage it is the size of a poppy seed. Photo courtesy of the CDC.
Caption: You can still enjoy being outdoors – wear proper attire and check yourself for ticks. Photo courtesy of www.tickencounter.org