What happened to our winter? It came in like a lamb and stayed that way.
As a result of our very mild winter, the ticks are projected to be very plentiful this year. We have seen patients arrive on a regular basis in the Emergency Department with live ticks on their person, or because they were concerned about where a tick has been.
This year is the year for protecting yourself against these little blood suckers. So, what to do?
- Go into nature prepared! Wear long sleeves and tuck your pants into your boots and wear tick repellent, but make sure that it is safe for everyone in the family.
- Every night, make it a ritual to do a body check on everyone in the family. Like the Brad Paisley song “Ticks” states: “Cause I’d like to see you out in the moonlight, I’d like to kiss you way back in the sticks, I’d like to walk you through a field of wildflowers, and I’d like to check you for ticks.” When you are looking for ticks pay particular attention to under the arms, ears (in, on and behind), belly button, behind knees, between legs and – believe it or not – on genitalia, waist and in your hair/scalp and neck. There are many different sizes of ticks so make sure you look at every brown spot on the body.
- Don’t panic! When you do have the pleasure of finding a little brown parasite, do not panic. For a tick to transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease, they need to have been attached for more then 24 hours, so if you check every day you will get to them way before they can get to you.
- Know how to remove a tick. There are many different ways to remove a tick. Here is a link to a video that shows you the correct way to remove one. All you need is a pointy tweezer, a steady hand, and patience. Grasp the tick gently as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up holding the tick without crushing it until it lets go. After you successfully remove the tick, make sure you get rid of it permanently. Clean the area with an antiseptic like alcohol and enjoy the rest of your day.
This routine will likely be repeated many times this summer. So, enjoy the outdoor beauty that Vermont has to offer in the spring, summer and fall, but remember protect yourself, family, and friends against tick bites and the possible disease they can transmit.
In this day and age of smartphones “there is an app for that.” The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has an app for both Apple and Google Play. Search for “Tickborne Diseases” and download it to your smartphone so you can take all the information you ever wanted into nature with you.
Mieneke Maher, RN, is a staff nurse in the Emergency Department at the University of Vermont Medical Center.