The Sheepdog Man Index of Nasty Pest and Parasites – Part One: Ticks and Lyme Disease
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that affects multiple systems in the body. It enters the body as a bacterium found in the stomach of some ticks. Once it enters, it then quickly spreads. The infection and neurotoxins can be quite harmful, and though rare, even deadly.
Lyme Disease Is A Growing problem
In fact, as many as 30,000 cases were reported to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) last year alone! And that was only the ones reported! That’s more than double a decade ago!
Additionally, the CDC has attempted to provide a more accurate number with studies from 2005-2010. They state,
The results of these studies suggest that the number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the United States is around 300,000 1
Therefore, learning how to protect yourself now is essential.
So How Do I Get Lyme Disease?
One of the most common ways to contract Lyme disease is from ticks. These blood-sucking pests can give quite the bite, and quickly cause infection.
Recognizing this danger is especially important when camping, hunting or fishing.
It is also critical to remove a tick as well as distinguish whether or not you have contracted Lyme disease quickly.
According to the CDC,
Blacklegged ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours before they can transmit Lyme disease. 2
Also, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, if detected immediately. However, if not treated quickly (within a couple of days), chronic Lyme disease can spread to the heart, joints, and nervous system.
What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
According to the CDC, the follow signs indicate a possible Lyme Disease infection. 3
Minor (Early) Systems
- Muscle & Joint Aches
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
Major (Later) Symptoms
- Severe headaches and next stiffness
- Skin rash on other areas of the body — called erythema migrans
- Joint pain, and swelling
- Facial Paralysis
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat (Lyme carditis)
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Nerve pain
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands and feet
- Problems with short-term memory
- And weight-loss/gain
Who Is At Risk?
- New Hampshire
- New York
- Rhode Island
- New Jersey
How to Avoid Ticks
Unfortunately, these nasty little blood-suckers are incredibly proficient at hunting you down.
How do they do it?
They can smell you. When you breathe, your body exhales Carbon Dioxide and an alcohol, know as 1-octen-3-ol. This alcohol acts as a homing beacon for ticks, as well as mosquitos and other bugs and allows them to locate you with ease.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to prevent this?
There is. I introduce, DEET.
DEET was created by the military over 50 years ago and has been used as an effective repellent ever since.
However, scientists did not understand how DEET worked, until recently. What they now know is that insects can still smell when they are exposed to DEET.
However, the DEET completely scrambles their “code” making it impossible for them to understand what they are smelling.
While DEET is an effective repellant, it is stinky, and you must spread it over all your skin and clothing, and it only works for 8 hours. It also will not prevent a tick from biting as it only inhibits its “homing” mechanism.
Thankfully, there is a better option.
Permethrin is a very effective pesticide with no odor and little to no side effects. According to studies made by the NPIC permethrin is not a carcinogen and has no links to harming children while in the womb. While there are natural ways to derive permethrin, the easiest and cheapest way to obtain this valuable pesticide is to use a pyrethroid version.” Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals that act like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower.” – 4
Unlike DEET, Permethrin kills the insect upon contact.
Permethrin is available in spray bottles, for clothing (see this product from Sawyer), or in a concentrated form — which will rid your backyard of harmful ticks for weeks.
WARNING!: This liquid will kill your cat. However, it is safe for your cat once it has dried.
So, to Avoid Ticks Follow These Steps
1. Wear Protective Clothing
Wear thin long-sleeve shirts and pants. Wearing clothes that cover all areas of your skin is one of the best ways to prevent ticks from latching on.
There’s clothing made for this very purpose, and while it is a bit expensive, it is worth the investment. Remember, you only need a couple of pairs. Such clothing is exceptionally breathable and will dry very quickly if you get it wet.
I like the BugsWay line from ExOfficio. Their convertible pants with zip-off legs are awesome and remain bug resistant for up to 70 washes. Simply apply Permethrin after that.
2. Wear a Wide-Brimmed Hat
ExOficio also makes a wide-brimmed BugsAway Mesh hat which I highly recommend as well. It’s available in Bay Leaf, Loden, and Pebble.
3. Wear Long Marino Wool Socks
Wool socks will help prevent blisters, are anti-microbial, will retain heat when it’s cold and dry fairly quickly after getting wet.
Darn Tough makes an excellent pair of socks right here at home in the good ole US of A. Vermont, to be exact. They also guarantee them for life, and they are competitively priced. Can’t beat that!
4. Cut Down Their Habitat.
Ticks are most abundant in humid tropical and subtropical climates. Their desired places of rest are long grasses and other vegetation with grass-like characteristics. These areas make it easy for ticks, young and old, to catch passersby with relative ease.
Therefore, while you can’t do anything about climate, you can remove plant life from your yard to reduce the possibility of a tick bite.
How to Avoid Lyme Disease
1. Check for Ticks
Since Lyme disease comes from ticks, the most obvious way to avoid it is searching for ticks. Also, you should check for ticks after any long walk in the woods, hikes in the mountains or trips to the lakes, etc.
Ticks can be seen without any specialized equipment to locate them. However, a magnifying glass may help in the process. Simply do a thorough scan of all clothing, gear, and animals to make sure none have hitched a ride waiting to snack on you later.
Then check all areas of exposed skin, and pay particular attention to regions with a lot of hair as ticks can be hard to see on the head and scalp.
Also be sure to look for affected areas where a tick might have bitten you, but then fallen off. Having a tick bite you without implanting itself is a relatively common occurrence and can be just as harmful as finding a tick implanted.
Such areas are red and inflamed, red with a white center or even just small bite marks that are painful.
2. Bathe or Shower as Soon as Possible after Exposure to a Potentially Tick-Infested Area.
3. Examine Gear and Pets
4. Tumble Dry Your Clothes
To kill any ticks that may remain on your clothing, tumble dry your clothing on high heat for at leat 10 minutes. If you need to clean your clothes first, use hot water rather than cold for your wash.
5. Remove Ticks Immediately
With the removal of ticks, some caution is advised.
There are a couple of methods that use irritants, like grease or alcohol, to cause the tick to let go. While these methods may indeed cause the tick to let go, they can also cause that nasty little parasite to vomit or salivate more intensely.
This vomiting is dangerous because the bacterium that causes Lyme disease — Borrelia — survives in the stomach of the parasite.
Causing the tick to vomit, during removal, brings the bacterium into contact with the host and can cause dangerous neurotoxins to spread, resulting in more harm than good.
According to the CDC, there are 4 absolutes to removing a tick.
- Use tweezers. specifically fine tipped. Pinch the tick as close to the skin as you can get.
- Pull away from the skin. Slow and steady wins the race! Be sure not to twist as this can break off the mouth.
- Wash your hands and clean the area with either iodine or alcohol.
- Discard the tick properly. Seal it in tape, flush it, drown it in alcohol or seal it in a plastic bag.
This method is demonstrated by the TickEncounter Resource Center below. Make sure you have pointy tweezers like these.
WARNING! These videos below may be considered gross or disturbing by some viewers.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE OPTIONS ARE NOT RECOMMENDED BY THE CDC. Therefore, we provide them only for informational purposes.
There are also products available for the removal of ticks.
One such product is the Tick Spoon. It is recommended by Jim Dill, Pest Management Specialist from the University of Main. He demonstrates how to use it in this video.
Another option is the Tick Twister.
This video demonstrates how and why it works.
One last method, which I have successfully used with a cat, is to use a Q-Tip to rotate the tick until it releases itself from the host.
6. Contact Medical Authorities
If you’ve been bitten by a tick, and show symptoms of Lyme disease you should seek medical help right away, as timing is crucial. Additionally, the sooner you get medical attention, the better your chances are of not contracting chronic Lyme disease.In Conclusion
I hope this has helped you understand the dangers of ticks and Lyme disease. I also hope that I have given you the resources to protect yourself and your loved ones from this nasty illness.
If you have any questions on how to distinguish tick bites, whether or not you might have experienced Lyme disease or how to keep your family safe from these harmful parasites; please comment below.
Also, if you have any ideas on how to protect yourself from ticks, please mention that as well.
*This article has not been evaluated by the EPA, FDA or IARC, and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illnesses.*