There are a lot of ticks this time of year in Midcoast Maine. Looking at the data from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension's Tick Lab for our region (Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Edgecomb, Southport, Wiscasset, and Woolwich) over 41% of black-legged deer ticks submitted to the lab since it opened in 2019 carried Lyme Disease (Borrelia), over 6% carried Babesia, and close to 7% carried Anaplasma. Many ticks carry more than one disease.
If you want to enjoy being outdoors, but avoid being bitten by a deer tick, here are five preventive measures you should take:
SKIN. Use your preferred repellent on your skin daily. Wash off at the end of the day. Re-apply each morning. If you use an organic repellent, like Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, reapply every four hours. You can also use Sawyer's Picaridin lotion or spray, which is based on the Piperine in pepper plants, and lasts 12 hours. It's safe for children over 6 months old. Deet is also effective in repelling ticks. Whatever repellent you choose, read the label carefully before using on children. Apply every morning all over your body. Shower the repellent off at night.
CLOTHING. Wear clothing (outerwear, shoes, hats, gloves, socks) that have been treated with Permethrin insect repellent. Permethrin is an insecticide in the pyrethroid family. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals that act like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. Permethrin should not be applied to your skin. Spray it on your clothes (or soak them in it) and let them dry in a well-ventilated or outdoor location. Once the repellent has bonded to the cloth, it will not rub off or harm you, your children, or your pets. It will last for six weeks or six washings. When you come inside, put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes. That will kill any ticks.
PETS. Consult with your vet on the best form of preventive treatment for your dog or cat. Some breeds may have adverse reactions to certain tick preventive treatments. In addition to whatever you and your Vet decide upon, you should have your pet wear a Permethrin-treated jacket that will kill ticks on contact and keep them from being brought into your home. You can purchase pre-treated dog vests from Dognotgone.com
HOUSE. Use cleaning products in your home that contain: Cedar, Eucalyptus, Lemongrass, Rosemary, or Lemon Eucalyptus. These will repel ticks. You can also add a few drops of Permethrin to your preferred cleaning product, spritz your bedding, and treat your furniture and pet bedding with Permethrin (keep off until fully dried).
YARD. Keep your grass mowed short. It's possible to treat your yard to deter ticks with either chemical or organic products. For more information about chemical lawn treatments or natural organic options, you can go to http://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/gotpests/bugs/tick-mosquito-companies.htm to find a pest control company nearest you. You can ask for both chemical and organic options.
What to do if you get a tick bite
What should you do if you, or one of your family or visitors does get a tick bite?
1. Remove and save the tick. Put it in a baggie in the freezer and then send it to the Maine Tick Lab https://extension.umaine.edu/ticks/submit/ to be tested to see what disease(s) it's carrying.
2. Make an appointment to come to our Health Center (633-1075) to be treated preventively. Don't wait. It's important to act proactively since over 60% of local ticks carry one or more diseases. If you get a negative tick test result you can discontinue the prescribed medication.
3. Within 2 weeks after you've been bitten, you should get a blood test done by a lab that specializes in diagnosing tick-borne diseases. We use two such labs. Their results are much more accurate than the standard "Lyme Tests" used by most local health care providers.