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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Spring "tick talk." Stay safe from biting bugs and the illnesses they carry

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“Ticks: the foulest and nastiest creatures that be.” --Pliny the Elder, 23-79 A.D., Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher

The RV travel season has decidedly rolled into most of the U.S. It's also tick season—which means increased exposure to the serious infectious diseases they carry. Adding to the normal "tick season" issue, the frigid temperatures did not kill ticks as they have a two-year life cycle and are well regulated to survive winters. They become active once the weather starts to thaw, and by the time it reaches 40 degrees they are seeking warm-blooded hosts to feed on.

“According to the New York Department of Health, ticks are most active late spring through mid-August,” says a news release from Topical BioMedics, Inc., that makes a line of pain and healing creams called Topricin. The company reminds folks there are, two dangerous tick-borne illnesses.

The Lyme disease bacterium (Borrelia burgdorfen) is carried by a species of ticks known as Ixodes. Ticks in this group include deer ticks, western black-legged ticks, and black-legged ticks. These tiny terrors are small—typically no larger than a poppy seed—and transmit the bacteria when feeding on warm-blooded hosts, including mice, deer, dogs, and humans. The bacteria enter the skin through the bite during feeding and eventually make their way into the bloodstream.

Lyme disease is rampant. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with it each year, with perhaps only 10% - 12% of Lyme disease cases are actually reported to them. Most documented cases have occurred in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, with some incidences reported from western states, including Oregon and northern California. Moreover, the Companion Animal Parasite Council Parasite Forecast Maps predict Lyme is expanding its range to the west as well as southern states.

wunderling on
Symptoms? In 60 to 70 percent of Lyme disease cases, the first symptom is often a rash that occurs at or near the site of a tick bite and has a round, “bulls-eye” appearance. It can be between 2” and 6” in diameter, and lasts up to five weeks. Other symptoms occur from several days to weeks, months, and even years after a bite. They include “flu-like” symptoms, such as aches and pains in muscles and joints, chills and fever, headache, sore throat, stiff neck, swollen glands, dizziness, and fatigue. Even if these symptoms fade away, untreated Lyme disease may lead to arthritis, nervous system abnormalities, and an irregular heart rhythm.

Another tick-transmitted infection is Babesiosis, caused by a parasite that lives in red blood cells. The babesia microti parasite infects and destroys red blood cells, and the disease—which is a malaria-like illness—can cause hemolytic anemia. Symptoms begin anywhere from five days after a bite or longer, and may include fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, nausea, tiredness, and a rash. Unlike Lyme, Babesiosis has been known to be fatal. Therefore diagnosis and treatment should begin as soon as possible after it is contracted.

Your defense against these nasty problems? Avoiding contact with ticks and disease prevention. Follow these tips:

  • Use natural tick repellents. According to award-winning author and green living expert Annie B. Bond, the essential oil of rose geranium is an effective repellent. “Do not apply it directly on skin, but mix a drop or two in an oil, or dab onto your clothing, particularly shoes, socks and pants, shirt cuffs, and collar” says Ms. Bond. “You may also use it on your dog, but again not directly on the skin. Apply a drop to a bandana, or on a collar or harness.” Other products she recommends include Rose Geranium Hydrosol, available from Simplers Botanicals for $12.65 ( and Buzz Away Extreme, which is formulated with citronella, cedarwood, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and peppermint. Studies have found it to be as effective or better than DEET-based products, and it was rated as the most effective natural insect repellent by the Good Housekeeping Institute.
  • Dryer sheets also some protection. According to Dr. Gary Wilkes, a veterinarian at Westside Animal Hospital, Augusta, GA, “To avoid ticks, I like to place dryer sheets in my socks, pockets and hat. I don’t know if it’s the smell or the fragrance, but it seems that loading up on Bounce provides good protection.”
  • Avoid walking in wooded, brushy, and grassy areas. When hiking in an overgrown or wooded area, try to stay near the center of the trail, and do not sit on stonewalls, which harbor rodents.
  • When outdoors, protect yourself and your children by wearing long sleeves and long pants, preferably in light colors so you can spot a tick more easily. Wear shoes and socks that you tuck pant legs into or a pair of tall boots.
  • After being outdoors, remove clothing and place them in a dryer first for 15 minutes, then wash your clothes and dry again. Washing alone will not kill ticks—even with bleach—it’s the heat of the dryer that does the trick.
  • Do a thorough body check of yourself and your children after spending time outdoors, and take a shower or bath within two hours of coming inside. In the case of Lyme disease, infection from a tick to a human typically takes 30 – 40hours, so spotting and removing them quickly is an important first defense. (It is uncertain how long it takes for Babesiosis to spread.)
  • De-tick with duct tape. To get the pests off you or your pet, use sticky duct tape to remove before they bite.
  • Your four-legged friend may pick up an unwanted hitchhiker after being outside.Be sure to inspect dogs for ticks after they’ve been outside as they may deliver a tick to you, and they can also become sick with Lyme disease.

If you discover a tick attached to you, carefully remove it. Using tweezers, grasp it close to the skin and pull straight back without twisting or yanking. There are also devices on the market today that are made for effectively and efficiently removing ticks.Avoid pressing or squeezing the tick’s belly as it can push bacteria into your body. Similarly, do not use the heat of a match that you light and blow out, or petroleum jelly.After you’ve removed the tick, disinfect the bite area. Save the tick for possible identification by a doctor or the local health department.

Source: Topical BioMedics, Inc and


  1. Too bad you source of information for this article is a company that sells these unproven "natural" repellents. The CDC recommends the use of EPA approved DEET to reduce the diseases spread by ticks and mosquitos yet there is no mention of this, shame for such a biased article.

    1. From the CDC website: "Before they can be marketed, most insect repellents must be registered by EPA. EPA registration of insect repellent active ingredients indicates the materials have been reviewed and approved for human safety and effectiveness when applied according to instructions on the label." Check the following address to search for repellents, including those with natural ingredients such as citronella, which have been registered with the CDC:

  2. Good article. A mention should be made of Permethrin treated clothing. You can treat your own, send yours for treatment, or buy pre-treated. More effective than Deet.

    Also, the sooner you seek treatment the faster you can beat this horrible disease. If you suspect you've been bitten, do not hesitate to go to your doctor. Left untreated, you may spend years trying to recover.

  3. One needs to know, I'm a Lyme survivor, most doctors are not Lyme literate. Please take the time to know the real facts. CDC does NOT give the correct facts. I trust; Take the time to research the area(s) you plan to visit.