|If you must walk through taller grass, wearing pants and tucking softs on the outside, then spraying tick repellant on the outside of the clothing can go a long way to preventing tick bites. (Photo: tickencounter,com)|
This is the second post in a series of two, concerning Tick-Borne Illness. Please see the prior posting also.
Since the diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne illnesses can range from fairly simple to quite complex, by far, the best strategy is avoidance of these types of infection through prevention. We are fortunate that ticks are unable to jump to attack us. They wait in taller, or even ankle high grass and simply crawl to us.
These are some of the things you can do to help avoid ticks, tick bites, and the infections which can accompany them.
1. Since mice are the primary breeding area for ticks infected with anaplasma and babesia, then remove or kill mice when possible. This is easier said then done, because they are extremely prevalent in field, rural and suburban areas, and sometimes they look quite clean and harmless. Still, you do not need them within structures you or your family inhabit.
2. Some people annually spray yards for ticks. We do not. We purchase 10,000 ladybugs for every acre we need tick free, each autumn, and then liberate them by spraying the netting they come in with water. The ladybugs eat the tick eggs and the amount of ticks you see the following year are noticeably less. We beef these up every so many years. Keep in mind that the ladybugs do want to come in to stay warm over winter, so you will need a ladybug house for them in a warm area outdoors, near a building. This is an integrated pest management approach to reducing ticks. (IPM)
3. Protecting yourself from ticks also involves protecting your pets. Ask your vet what type of tick preventive is recommended in your area. Check your pets regularly for ticks and remove them with tweezers reserved just for them. We drown the ticks removed from animals in a small container of alcohol.
4. Protect yourself when outside or in forested areas, by wearing well covering clothing. Many tock preventives can be applied to the outside of ones clothing. For years our family used "Skin So Soft" the Avon product, because it repels ticks because they apparently dislike the odor. Depending upon where you are, this alone may be adequate. In other places, you will need to modestly apply pyrethrins to the outside of clothing and shoes. Take great care with young children not to overdo pyrethrin use. A couple of times a day, check your children's scalps, and bodies for embedded ticks. These should be removed with tweezers immediately if found. Then, you need to check the site every day for a few days for infection, and then every week for a few weeks noting rashes. We write down the tick bites and dates because some summers, it can be hard to keep track. Of course, adults will need to check each other. It will be necessary to bathe daily in summer in tick regions. This is such a problem here, that we have an annual Lyme titre drawn on everyone here, when they see their physicians for annual physicals. There was a Lyme disease immunization for humans, but there is no longer. Perhaps a safe reliable formulation will be developed. There is one for pets.
Two diseases that are also may be tick borne are Tularemia and Babesiosis. Tularemia is also known as rabbit feve, and the causative organism is Francisella tularensis. The handlinf of sick or dead animals can also result in Tularemia. It has sudden onset with chills and fever. An uncer develops at the site of the initial tick bite, and the infection spreads through the lymph nodes, and there is resultant enlargement. Ciprofloxacin and other antibiotics of the tetracycline class are used to treat Tularemia, usually for a couple of weeks. Babesiosis is caused by Babesia microti, a microscopic organism contracted through the tick. Although some people feel relatively well, fever, chills, sweating, headaches, fatigue, malaise and nausea are more common. If left untreated, destruction of red blood cells (as in hemolytic anemia) and thrombocytopenia, (a dangerous drop in blood platelets), and end organ damage can result in death. This disease is often treated with Clindamycin or Azithromycin.
Great tick information and avoidance resources:
I hope this quick primer, Parts One and Two, help you to keep tick avoidance in mind, whether you are at home, or vacationing this Spring and Summer.
Please also see a new post on this subject: