The 4th of July holiday brings back many of our seasonal residents and many more visitors to our wonderful state and Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education wants to make sure that people enjoy their stay and partake of all the outdoor activities that Maine offers.
This weekly column is to remind readers of the simple solutions that exist so that people can enjoy their summer and remain tick-free.
Prevention practices: Skin, clothing, pets, home, and yard are all important areas to focus on as these are areas where ticks come into contact with people. What one chooses to put on one’s skin is a personal preference, whether it is DEET, picaridin, essential oils, or other natural repellent balms and salves, there is no wrong answer. But some products are safer than others for children and pets, so carefully consider before purchasing.
Wearing white clothing and tucking a shirt into pants and pants into socks does not repel ticks, it only makes them easier to find. One wants to repel and there are options. Permethrin, a product derived from the chrysanthemum plant that kills ticks on contact, is FDA-approved in more than 2,500 products and used by the military on uniforms and gear. One can purchase this at local hardware or do-it-yourself stores or, for those with health or environmental concerns, one can purchase clothing already infused with a heavy concentration of permethrin, such as tops, pants, vests, socks, hats, gloves, and blankets. One can also send clothing off and have it infused with a heavier concentrated application; email me for more information.
Visitors, did you know that you can connect with a local vet and have your pet protected while you’re here on vacation? Local vets can connect with your vet back home and get an instant health history and be able to prescribe the best product based on the age, breed, and overall health condition of the pet.
Cleaning cabins and cottages with products containing lemongrass and eucalyptus creates a safe and natural deterrent for ticks. There are also safe and natural products to use on the outside, such as diatomaceous earth, to repel ticks. For higher infested areas, consider contacting a service provider who uses organic repellent sprays.
And as always, when coming in from spending time outdoors, do a tick check.
What a tick check is: A tick check is the process of looking over one’s body top to bottom for nymph and adult ticks that one may have unknowingly brought inside. Ticks crawl from the ground up looking for the perfect place to feed upon, and they thrive on moist, dark areas. The best way to do a tick check is to remove one’s clothing, toss it in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes, and then check the following areas: under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, on the back of the knees, in hair, between the legs and groin area, and around one’s waistline. Nymph ticks are no larger than a poppy seed and are often missed. Use a mirror for hard to see places. One can also shower using products containing rosemary, eucalyptus, and tea tree oil, which repels and washes out any ticks one may have missed while checking hair. Remember: tea tree oil is not safe for pets.
As always, if one has a tick encounter, one should save the tick and have it tested to know for certain what one was exposed to. By using prevention practices and doing daily tick checks, one takes charge and reduces the chances of being exposed to a tick — and one can enjoy outdoor life in Maine as it should it be!
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org or go to mldse.org for more information.)