Fear can consume us and directs our thoughts, words, and actions. Knowledge reduces our fear; the more we know about something, the less we fear because we have some control over how it may or may not directly affect us — like ticks, the diseases that they carry, and the many ways we are exposed to them.
Ticks are a year-round problem here in Maine, with tick activity having been reported every month so far in 2018. In March, April, and May, I am busy participating in educational events and giving prevention talks, and I do it so to reduce the fear levels and get people back outside, participating in outdoor activities that they’ve given up out of fear of tick encounters.
Our prevention talk “How Not to Have a Tick Encounter” has been given over a dozen times already, and by teaching people the five points of prevention, they feel empowered to do something about the tick population where they live and play, thus reducing the fear level of going outdoors. Maine is an outdoor state, meant to be enjoyed year-round and if there is no state-level plan to eradicate our tick problem, then we need to be empowered to take matters into our own hands for our own protection.
The temps may be fluctuating, but everything is thawing, and ticks are active, so having a prevention plan is not only necessary but crucial to your not having a tick encounter!
Recapping the five points of prevention:
Skin: wear repellent on all exposed skin (daily)
Clothing: Treat your clothing with permethrin, send your clothing in to be treated, or buy clothing already treated (I will elaborate more on this).
Pets: Ticks are a year-round problem so talk to your vet about year-round protection.
Home: Use cleaning products with ingredients that repel ticks, such as lemongrass-eucalyptus oil.
Yard: There are many DIY products you can use — granules, powders, and tubes — or you can call a state-licensed pest control company that can offer options ranging from chemical to natural and organic sprays. Some like to use chickens and guinea hens. Knowing that you have options is empowering when you are planning how to best protect your home, pets and family.
In recent talks, concern has been raised over the handling of DIY products such as permethrin when treating clothing, from fear of getting it on one’s skin to contact with pets to how safe it is for the environment. This is when having a conversation about having your clothing pretreated for you, or purchasing clothing already pretreated, comes up and is well-received.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, be it for work or play, then you need your clothing to be protected. Walking in the woods, you could easily brush up against a tree branch or shrubbery and encounter a questing tick who gets onto your clothing and possibly even back into your house. Ticks are tiny, and many times not spotted until it’s too late.
More and more companies are carrying apparel for humans and pets pretreated with a heavy concentration of permethrin that binds to the fibers in the material and lasts through 70 washings. It does not reactivate when wet nor does it irritate the skin. It only deactivates through the agitation process in the washing machine and does not get onto other clothing. All this means that it is safe and effective for all ages and is pet-friendly and environmentally friendly.
For those that spend a fair amount of time outdoors, perhaps work-related, and want to send their clothing in to be pretreated, they can do that through Insect Shield, insectshield.com. They will treat clothing with a heavy concentration of permethrin and send it back to you with a guarantee to last through 70 washings. And for those who want to treat their clothing themselves, we always warn to follow directions as specified on the bottle and to always treat clothing in a safe, ventilated area, away from pets and children, and to allow to fully dry before handling. (Note: Permethrin is for clothing and outerwear/outergear only; it is not for skin repellent or topical pet use. Do not confuse permethrin with pyrethrin, a chemical used in insecticides for spraying lawns. Permethrin is FDA-approved and found in over 2,500 household products and items.)
Once your clothing is treated and you get into the habit of wearing your choice of repellent on your skin every day, you will find your tick encounters to be less and less. Less tick encounters reduces the fear factor, and soon you’ll find yourself and your family back to enjoying outdoor activities without any thought or fear of ticks. This is how life in Maine was meant to be and it is how it can be when you put your prevention plan into action.
Free your mind of fear and the rest will follow; knowledge is power.
Mark your calendars: The fourth annual Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education conference is coming up Saturday, April 28 at the Augusta Civic Center. Doors open at 7 a.m. for registration, and the conference runs 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go to conference2018.mldse.org for information on speaker agenda and topics, lodging, and lunch options. As always, admission is free, and we hope to see you there.
Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable, all-volunteer organization that offers free resources such as education, referrals, and support resources to Maine’s Lyme community. If you or someone you know needs help, please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
(Paula Jackson Jones is the president and co-founder of Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education, the Maine partner of the national Lyme Disease Association and member of Maine CDC’s Vector-borne Disease Workgroup. Email her at email@example.com or go to mldse.org for more information.)