Deer ticks are well known as a carrier for Lyme disease and are therefore a serious concern for farmers, gardeners and those of us who otherwise like to spend our time outdoors. Several other tickborne infections can result from a tick bite, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Borrelia miyamotoi disease and Powassan virus disease.
Here are several tips for helping to prevent Lyme disease:
1. Learn your ticks! While Maine has many species of ticks, the deer tick is the only species within the state that can transmit the Lyme spirochete. The Maine CDC provides tick identification resources on their website.
2. Cover up when entering tick habitat. When walking in woods, brush or tall grass, choose to wear long pants and tuck your pant legs into your socks. Similarly, wear a long-sleeved shirt and tuck it into your pants.
3. Wear light-colored clothing. Dark-colored ticks can be spotted more easily in contrast.
4. Get in the habit of checking for ticks. After spending time outside, check for ticks on yourself and family members – pets, too! If you work outdoors, frequent checks throughout the day can be an important preventative measure. If possible, shower immediately and change your clothing after spending time in tick habitat.
5. Reduce tick habitat near your home. Mowing your grass or cutting back brush can make your yard less hospitable to ticks.
6. Choose a non-toxic repellant. Apply to pant cuffs, socks and shoes to deter ticks.
7. Remove ticks quickly and correctly. For Lyme transmission to occur, it is believed that an infected tick must attach to its host for 24 to 48 hours. To remove a latched tick, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with tweezers or a tick spoon, then pull carefully. You may choose to have the tick tested for Lyme bacteria; the University of Maine Cooperative Extension offers tick identification and lab testing.
8. Monitor your health. Not all Lyme infections result in the tell-tale bull’s eye rash, which can appear between 3 and 30 days of infection. Other symptoms to monitor for, according to the CDC, include fever, joint aches, muscle pain and headaches.
For more information, read “Lyme Disease” by Joyce White, originally published in The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener in fall 2008.