We are currently in the thick of the tick. Late October and early November are the most active period of the year for adult deer ticks, the species primarily responsible for the spread of Lyme disease. If you spend time in the woods and fields of the Northeast, here are my top three tips for protecting yourself—and your pets—from their potentially infectious bites.
1) Wear light-colored clothing, including socks. The dark-colored adult deer ticks (males are black, females dark brown and black) stand out prominently against the lighter background. It is very difficult to spot ticks on dark clothing, especially black fabric. And if you don't spot 'em quick, they're much more likely to make a meal out of you.
2) Check yourself and your pets regularly, constantly, especially if you've spotted a tick anywhere that day. Where's there's one, there's likely many more. Even if an infected tick has embedded itself in you or your pet, you still have 36 hours to remove it before it transmits the disease. Don't let your guard down.
3) Buy the Pro-Tick Remedy Tick Remover, an ingeniously simple tick removal device ($4, widely available online). It has been the most effective tool of the many I've used to pull embedded ticks.
The Tick Key from Liberty Mountain (good pics of it in action) also garners excellent reviews ($4). Unless it's your only option, avoid pulling ticks with tweezers—it's easy to snap the mouthparts off under the skin.
The American Lyme Disease Foundation offers an excellent overview of the deer tick life cycle, as well as a good poster showing the probability of Lyme disease transmission based on how long the tick has been feeding.
A few other useful things to keep in mind about deerticks:
•They are inactive in temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
•Deer ticks are in the nymph stage from May - September, peaking in early to mid-summer (see chart below). Their small size (about the size of a period or pin head) makes them much more difficult to spot. Consequently, nymphs transmit the majority of Lyme disease to humans.
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.
Labels: Bugs, Hiking, Ticks