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If you live where Lyme (and related tick-borne diseases) are prevalent, you need to know that “Lyme” is just a slang term for more than a dozen infections that ticks can transmit to humans. I have a friend who has been fighting a tick infection for two years now. Her home is in a yellow, NOT in a red zone.
Go to http://www.cdc.gov/Features/StopTicks/ for info about how to identify ticks, do tick checks, and protect yourself, your yard and your pets.
Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible, not wait for it to detach on its own.
Grasp the tick right next to the skin and slowly pull the entire tick straight up with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. Avoid touching the tick with bare hands.
Regular tweezers tend to squeeze deadly stomach contents into the wound. Google “tick removal device” and choose one. They’re small and inexpensive. One is designed to attach to your key ring or dog’s collar.
If the mouth-parts do break off, try to remove them with tweezers. If you can’t get them out, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands, preferably with rubbing alcohol or an iodine scrub.
KEEP A TICK COLLECTION KIT ON HAND
Know what ticks look like. You can download and print images of the ticks indigenous to your area at their actual sizes for the different life stages. The CDC and Cooperative Extension sites have pictures and descriptions.
If you get bit and find the tick, you should collect it for testing. Treatments depends on correctly diagnosing which of the 20 tick infections you might have. Having the actual tick’s body and head can really help.
Put that in a small case with a tick removal device, a foil package of alcohol or Betadine to clean the wound and a small vial (old pill bottle) that has a clean label on it where you can note the time, day, and place of collection.
If you can arrange it, also keep a vial of 200 mg tablets of Doxycycline in your kit, especially if you are traveling or camping. It is the usual first line antibiotic for tick bites. The sooner you can start the Doxycycline (two a day), the better.
Early treatment is critical with tick-borne illnesses. It only takes 15 minutes to pass the infection into your system and another 15 minutes for that infection to get into your spinal column.
If you find a fat tick in your clothes, it has probably already fed on you. Put the tick in the vial, find and clean the bite and begin treatment with Doxycycline.
In some areas of the country, Lyme is a highly politicized issue, so it can be difficult to find a Lyme Literate physician during the first few hours and days when treatment is most effective. An emergency room might or might not give you Doxycycline.
If I was looking for a physician or pediatrician, I’d ask what their treatment policy is for Lyme. If they blow you off, don’t use them.
PREVENTION IS YOUR BEST PROTECTION
Tick-borne illnesses are the most common cause of the most serious infections in the United States at this time. Education, awareness and PREVENTION are the best protection you have.
Many physicians will not take these diseases seriously, and many will not treat them. Once one of these infections has become established in the body, it can take years of treatment before you are rid of it and the symptoms are very serious.
The tiny nymph stage when the tick is most difficult to see is the type that carries the biggest load of infection.
Pets can carry the ticks and the diseases into your home. Don’t let pets that go out of doors get up on the bed. The pesticide chip vets put in the neck of dogs and cats works pretty well.
The physical response to a tick bite can happen up to 6 months after it happens and these diseases can also be passed by blood transfusions, via sex, or to unborn babies.
Only 1/3 of the people who contract Lyme or a similar infection even remember having had a tick bite.
It takes about two weeks at a temperature 10 below zero to kill ticks and eggs. So this past winter has been very easy on them and the crop will be bigger.
All game needs to be butchered very carefully, and cooked well. Infection is carried in the blood and tissue of deer but it does not make them sick. Raw milk is not a good idea and none of the tick infections are tested for when raw milk is certified safe.
Ticks need moisture from the soil so they don’t live in the house very well and usually dry up on a day
or two if they fall off.
Gum boots without eyeholes are good prevention. (Where I live, the dairy farmers call them “shit kickers” for obvious reasons.)
You can spray Pyrethrum rated for ticks on gaiters to wrap around your lower pant legs.
Furry cloth like flannel, and hairy wool trap ticks so they can be disposed of later.
Always use a blanket or sheet to sit on the ground to be washed later. Camping stores offer clothes with pesticide manufactured into them.
If you are camping with sleeping bags use a sheet insert. Sheets should be light colored so you can see if they get into the bed and take steps if you find them.
Throwing clothes into the washer/dryer on high is a good tick killer. Hot air dries them out.
In small yard spaces, or dog beds, toilet paper rolls with pesticide soaked cotton inside is a fairly effective way to make sure your mouse population doesn’t carry ticks. They take the cotton out for nest material and that kills ticks on the mice. But mice have a home range of only a few yards so it is for a limited area like a porch or playpen.