by Toni LelandAs I crawl around my landscape beds, clearing leaves and debris, delighting in each and every small green shoot I discover in this earliest part of spring, I realize that it's again time to watch for ticks. Having had a serious case of Lyme Disease a few years ago, I can tell you that prevention of tick bites is an important part of being a gardener.
For those of us who want to spend every waking minute out in our yards and gardens, there aren't many things that can deter us. To get around the nuisance of biting insects, and especially disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes, we need to get a head start on the season.
|public domain photo, Wikimedia Commons|
The most recent critter was one of the teensy tiny ticks that are known in this area as deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). These nasty little arachnids are vectors for Lyme Disease, Babesiosis, and Ehrlichiosis; finding one embedded in your skin is not a happy thing! There is no vaccination for Lyme Disease, and the recovery time can be quite prolonged. According to the CDC, about 300,000 people contract the disease each year.
How Do I Remove a Tick?
On searching the Internet for ways to protect myself, I came across some interesting information and advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. First, I wanted to remove Mr. Tick. I'd heard many folk remedies for doing this, but I wanted advice from the experts.
Ticks should be removed with tweezers by grasping the insect as close to the skin as possible and pulling straight up. They don't come willingly and there's a good possibility of leaving some bits of mouth parts in your skin. However, CDC stated that it wouldn't hurt to leave it and the skin would heal after cleansing the area with alcohol.
|Classic bulls eye rash with Lyme Disease. Photo from CDC.|
What's important is to make a note of when you received the bite, then watch the area carefully for anywhere from 3 days to several weeks. If a rash develops – especially a distinctive bulls-eye – see your doctor immediately. Or if you develop a fever or painful joints, but no rash, that could also indicate Lyme Disease or one of the other tick-borne illnesses.
How Do I Protect Myself?
Now – how to enjoy our gardens without endangering ourselves and our pets? Even if you own indoor pets, it's possible to bring ticks in on your clothing and then they find your sweet Muffy or Poochie.
Repellents containing DEET will protect you from biting insects for several hours; treating clothing with products containing permethrin will add protection, and the product remains active through several washings.
What I found interesting was the suggestion to toss your outdoor clothes into the dryer and tumble on high for 10 minutes. This would kill any ticks that managed to hitch a ride. CDC strongly recommends showering within 2 hours of coming indoors and then checking yourself carefully for any ticks that might have already latched on. Especially in your hair. I saw a recent suggestion to use a sticky lint roller over your clothes before entering the house. Any critters clinging to your clothes are snatched right off.
So, arm yourself with the right repellent, post a note on the back door to remind you to do a tick-check, and plan to enjoy your summer without any problems.
Happy tick-free gardening!