Integrative Medicine Blog

Save Your Ticks!

Kirsten Carle N.D. Sunday, May 07, 2017
Istock-ticks

We know this must sound strange, but save your ticks! Saving your ticks and sending them out to be tested is one of the most effective measures to find out just what type of infection that tick could be carrying.

If you get bit by a tick, remove it safely and carefully. Then, place it in a ziplock baggy with a moist cotton ball. You can visit www.tickreport.com to read more about where to send your ticks and how much it costs. Results typically come back within a few days to a week.

Rates of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses continue to dramatically increase, especially in the Northeast. Due to many factors, tick populations are exploding accompanied by increased percentages of ticks that carry disease-causing microbes. With this knowledge, it is now imperative that we do everything we can to prevent contracting these debilitating and often difficult-to-treat infections. In this instance, prevention is certainly worth a pound (or more) of cure! Below are some recommendations for preventing tick bites.

Be aware of tick habitat.

Ticks thrive in wooded areas, shrubs, brush, tall grass, leaf litter, woodpiles, particularly seeking out damp spots as they need moisture to survive. They are commonly found at the ends of foliage, waiting to grab on to a passerby. Mowing the lawn regularly and cleaning up yard debris can help decrease tick populations on your property.

Consider seasonal risk.

Although ticks are more active in warmer months (spring, summer, fall), some species can be active in the winter months as well if the temperatures are above freezing. Precautions should be taken all year long, especially with the more erratic temperature fluctuations of recent winters.

Natural insect deterrents.

Apply natural insect repellant prior to outdoor activities. A particularly effective (and local) brand that we recommend is RAD Soap Co.’s Natural Insect Repellant Spray. They also carry a version called Animal House that is safe for dogs. For an additional layer of protection, wash thoroughly with their Insect Repellant Soap prior to heading outside.

Proper attire.

Keep in mind that it is easier to spot ticks on light clothing. Although not exactly fashion-forward, tucking your pants in to long socks prevent ticks from climbing underneath pant legs, a common route of exposure. During outdoor activities, have a lint roller on hand to catch ticks that may be crawling on your clothing before they have a chance to reach your skin.

Thorough tick checks.

Inspect yourself, kids and pets for ticks after any outdoor exposure. Remove all clothing and place directly in dryer - run on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may be present. Inspect the entire body, paying particular attention to groin, armpits, scalp and hair – all areas that can be missed where ticks like to bite. Bathing or showering afterward is best.

Save ticks for testing.

Despite your best preventative measure should a tick bite occur, save any ticks for testing. For a $50 fee, the Lab of Medical Zoology at UMass Amherst can test ticks for Borrelia burgdorferi the bacteria that causes Lyme and for additional pathogens that cause other tick-borne diseases. For more information, visit www.tickreport.com.

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