Tick. The 4-lettered word alone gives me the heebie-jeebies—and for good reason. These creepy crawlers are the perpetrators of one of the fastest growing epidemics to date, Lyme disease (LD). And now that the temps are finally warming up, ticks are back in full swing. (I’ve already pulled two of the little buggers off my pup. Not cool.) Are you prepared? We talked about the nasty pests with A Twist of Lyme author Andrea H. Caesar, who has battled chronic LD since she was 11-years-old. Here are the must-know dirty deets to bite back.
The No-Zone Walking Fido around the block? Catching up on the newest FITNESS issue poolside in the shade? Risky business, girlfriend. “You can get a tick [bite] in a parking lot…anytime of the year,” warns Caesar. Like us, ticks are most active from April to September. Steer clear of wooded, shady areas as much as possible; in particular, stonewalls and moist leaf piles are their playgrounds. Hitting the open trail? Stick to the middle of the path, away from weedy edges.
Play It Safe Sport light-colored clothing to your next outdoor BBQ so you can easily spot the bad guys and tie long locks back into a tight ponytail. “Then they can’t crawl right up into your scalp,” says Caesar. (Your fave baseball cap will do the trick, too!) Swap out the shorts for leggings or pants tucked into tall socks when tackling yard work. The latter is a total fashion faux pas, we know, but hey—wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry!? And don't forget the repellent sprays/lotions. The CDC suggests products with 20 percent or more DEET, although Caesar—who lives a non-toxic life—prefers catnip oil. "It can be ten times more effective [than DEET]!" Her fave: Ava Anderson's Natural Bug Spray ($19.95, avaandersonnontoxic.com).
Check Mate “In my house, we do a tick check morning and night from head to toe,” says Caesar. “The problem is that deer ticks are the size of a piece of dirt so you’re not only looking—it’s a sensory test, too.” Thoroughly comb through your hair with your fingers and be sure to examine your, err, nooks and crannies (where they unfortunately love to take cover). According to the CDC, it takes more than 24 to 36 hours of attachment for ticks to transmit LD bacteria…hence the hide-and-seek urgency. Found one? Start by disinfecting the area with an alcohol swab. Next, use tweezers to grab the tick “head” as close to the skin as possible. Pull straight out and disinfect the bite site. “Put it in a plastic bag with a damp cotton ball if you want to send it away for testing,” advises Caesar. “It’s much more effective and easy to test a tick than a person!”
Tick’s Best Friend You may follow all of the prevention rules, but your pooch? Doubtful. Animals are LD carriers, which includes those not-so-welcome houseguests. “Set mouse traps to keep them under control!” says Caesar. As for pets, discuss repellent products with your vet, inspect their coats daily and reduce tick habitats in your yard, if possible. “My dogs are crated downstairs [at night] because of LD,” Caesar says.
Ticking Time Bomb “In its chronic form, Lyme disease can represent a complex set of infections involving the nervous system and its most basic functions,” says Caesar. “But it really also represents all of the body systems.” Translation: There is a seemingly endless rap sheet of symptoms, making the illness difficult to diagnose. Some general indicators to be aware of include achiness, headaches, tingling or numbness in extremities, fatigue and fever, which can have severe implications if undetected or ignored.
Photo courtesy of Andrea H. Caesar
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