Studies by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection show the state continues to be number one in reported cases of Lyme disease in the U.S., with cases increasing each year. This year will be no exception, with the CDC reporting that the combination of last year’s large white-footed mouse population and the mild winter will result in an even larger increase of infected ticks.
Bucks County Lyme holds support group meetings at 4 p.m. on the third Sunday of each month at the Middletown Municipal Building in Langhorne. Those that can’t make a meeting this summer can follow these simple and important prevention tips.
Ticks are the most active in the spring and summer months, but they can be out looking for a blood meal any time the ground is not frozen solid. A tick requires three different hosts during its life cycle: once as a larval tick, once as a nymphal tick and once as an adult. With each tick capable of infecting three different hosts, year-round awareness is a must.
Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, shoes and socks when planning to be in heavily wooded or grassy areas where ticks may be prevalent. Tuck shirts into pants, and pants into socks. Light-colored clothing makes ticks easier to spot.
DEET, which is an active ingredient in many sprays and lotions, is an effective bug repellent. It can, however, can cause adverse skin and respiratory reactions, particularly when used under clothing. Testing has proven that products with a 20 percent concentration of picardin repel bugs without skin irritation. As interest grows in using essential oils as a more natural repellent, more studies are being launched to explore their efficacy, as well.
Spray Clothes and Equipment
Clothes, especially shoes and socks, should be sprayed, inside and out, with an effective product, as should equipment. While it is an insecticide, permethrin (Nix) is currently the most effective product for killing invading ticks. A concentration of .05 percent has proven effective. Pre-treated socks, clothing, uniforms and gear, even for animals, can be purchased at sporting goods stores.
Avoid Risk Areas
Avoid brushy areas, leaf piles and the edge of the woods. The edges of a wooded area contain the highest concentration of ticks. Most infections happen in people’s own yards. Ticks need moisture to survive, so keep the grass cut short and remove brush to increase sunlight and dryness. Play areas should be located at least 20 feet away from the edge of woods.
Check for Ticks
Check moisture-prone areas such as the groin, armpits, scalp and back of the knees. Ticks are very small and most infections are caused by the tiny nymphal tick, which is the size of a poppy seed.
Heat Your Clothing
Heat clothes in the dryer for 15 minutes, then proceed with a normal wash and dry cycle. The heat will kill ticks that may be hiding in clothing.
When possible, shower or bathe within two hours of exposure, being sure to scrub moisture-prone areas. Ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease.
Get Immediate Medical Attention
For those that suspect they’ve been bitten or are experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease, call a doctor right away. Immediate detection is critical for a shorter recovery period. Extensive resources can be found at PaLyme.org and LymeDisease.org, which has developed a printable symptom checklist to aid in discussions with a physician.