by Meghan Fitzgerald
For those of you who feel similarly, here’s the information that has helped me get the most out of nature during high tick season:
What ticks should you worry about?
Not all ticks present the same danger. If you can identify ticks, you can better identify the risks associated. See the chart of the common ticks at different life stages.
Ticks at the nymph and adult female stage are the most likely to transmit disease. Though they eat all year, they usually feed in the spring and summer. You can find more information about the life cycle for each tick type on the University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter.
According to the CDC, of all of the tick-borne diseases, the most common is Lyme, with an estimated 300,000 cases in the U.S. each year. That is less than .1% of the population; although, incident rates are definitely geography dependent. The highest rate reported in 2015 was in Vermont, with around 85.5 cases per 100,000 people. Fortunately, Lyme can usually be treated with a round of antibiotics, and, in most cases, has no lasting effects, especially if caught early.
If geeking out on tick info makes you feel more prepared, the CDC has some cool maps to show the geographic distribution of the most common ticks with links to their associated diseases. It is helpful to know the symptoms of the most common tick-borne diseases in your area, but remember that the tick-borne diseases are not very common.
How do you prevent tick bites?
So, now we get to the risk management part! In short, the best way to avoid tick-borne disease is the prevention of a tick bite. The good news is you do not need to stay indoors! Thanks to the following tested and trusted techniques, tick bites can be minimized.
Here is a quick list of my favorite prevention measures:
What do I do if I find a tick?
To start, just breathe. Then, remember that having a tick crawling on you or your kids is creepy, but no cause for alarm. If the tick has bitten one of you, follow these steps from the CDC to remove the tick. If you can, identify the type of tick it was and make a note of the day when the tick was found, along with any idea about where you might have picked it up. This can help your doctor if you're one of the rare cases that get sick following a tick bite.
In my many years of traipsing around in the woods (as a tree researcher, I have not stuck to trails), I’ve had a few tick bites. But, I have certainly tested these prevention steps, and they really work for limiting bites. The woods are still my happy place; and I still hate ticks, but I have learned to live with them as part of the nature I love so much.