With the melting snow and sunshine, it finally feels like spring is right around the corner. Unfortunately, the return of warmer weather also means a return of everyone’s least-favorite, blood-sucking parasite – ticks.
Ticks looking for their next host will soon be very active. And where there are ticks, there is the danger of multiple disease-causing pathogens. In the Hudson Valley, including the Capital Region, a single tick bite can infect people with Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis. According the New York State Department of Health, there were more than 7,500 new cases of Lyme reported in the state in 2016.
Deer ticks, which live in shady, moist areas at ground level, range in size from a poppy seed to a small pea. They generally hang out alone, waiting for a warm-blooded creature – like a mouse, deer or human – to walk by and brush against them so they can attach themselves.
If they remain attached for at least 36 hours, symptoms may appear within another three to 30 days (average 10). Early symptoms include chills and fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle and joint pain, heart palpitations or swollen glands.
Left untreated, severe cases may involve strong headaches, painful arthritis, swelling of the joints and problems with the heart and central nervous systems.
To prevent infection, create a “tick-free zone” in your yard by keeping the lawn mowed and removing brush and weeds. When in wooded areas, wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easy to spot, and tuck your shirt into pants and pants into socks or boots. Inspect yourself every couple hours.
Once back inside, do a full-body tick check. If you spot one, grasp it with tweezers near the mouth area and pull it away from the skin. Do NOT use folk remedies such as petroleum jelly or lighted matches or cigarettes. Disinfect the site with soap and water.
If there is an infection, a red rash or bulls eye about two to three inches in diameter appears at the site in the majority of cases. Doctors can prescribe oral antibiotics that cure most cases within 10 to 28 days.
Remember, you don’t have to be in the deepest woods to pick up a tick. Anyone outdoors in our region, whether you are a hiker, gardener, soccer player, golfer, or just someone who likes to stroll barefoot in the grass, can be a target of these tiny invaders. If you, your kids or pets are spending time outside, you should be conducting daily tick checks.