Preventing Lyme disease in Vermont
VERMONT — Many people are not aware that the “tick season” in Vermont lasts from spring until late fall.
Just like mosquitoes, ticks are now a common nuisance in the Green Mountain State. Tick season typically lasts from April through October, but can extend further — particularly if the fall and winter months are warmer than usual. Fortunately there are a number of successful methods you can use to prevent tick bites.
Ticks are commonly found in brushy and wooded areas, forest edges and tall grass. People are encouraged to stick to the center of paths when hiking, wear socks and long pants when possible, and wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to find. Showering shortly after being outdoors can help dislodge unattached ticks and help you find any that may have attached to your skin. Lastly, it is important to check your body for ticks, paying special attention to the head/hair line, armpits and groin area.
Using multiple preventive methods will provide the best protection. The following are common repellents that should be used in combination with previously mentioned methods.
1. DEET. A repellent with a long history of safety and effectiveness, not to be confused with DDT. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, DEET is safe to use on children two months and older, following package instructions. Higher concentrations typically last longer, but concentrations greater than 30 percent have not been shown to increase duration of protection. Toxicity associated with DEET is almost always related to ingestion or excessive use and has not been seen when label instructions are followed.
2. Oil of lemon eucalyptus. A plant-derived repellent used since 1948. This product is only approved for use in children ages 3 years and up, but is a good natural alternative for those who do not wish to use DEET.
3. Permethrin. Used on clothing, not skin. This product effectively repels and kills ticks, and can last through multiple washes. Outdoor clothing already containing permethrin can be purchased online or at outdoor sports retail stores.
According to Consumer Reports, products that are not effective include citronella candles, wristbands, and all-natural products containing geraniol, lemongrass or rosemary oil.
But what happens when you do find a tick on yourself? The first thing to do is remove the tick. Ticks usually need to be attached for at least 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. To successfully remove a tick, firmly grasp it close to your skin with tweezers and pull straight up. There may be some noticeable debris left but this cannot transmit disease so it is safe to leave. DO NOT use petroleum jelly, lighted match, nail polish, etc. to remove ticks as these methods do not work and can be harmful.
After removing the tick, clean the area of the bite with soap and water. Some minor swelling and redness, similar to that of a mosquito or fly bite, may appear. This usually disappears within a day or two and is not a sign of Lyme disease.
In the following weeks, monitor you or your family member’s health closely. Symptoms of Lyme disease usually begin one to two weeks after a tick bite, but can start anywhere from three to 30 days after a tick bite. Contact your healthcare provider if you have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, or if you have a bull’s-eye-shaped rash, as these may be symptoms of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is treatable, and if dealt with quickly, patients typically experience a complete recovery.
For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/ticks or healthvermont.gov/prevent/lyme/lyme_disease.aspx.
Editor’s note: This story was provided by Caitlin Loretan, a graduate of Mount Abraham Union High School and the University of Vermont who is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Vermont Department of Health on a Lyme disease information campaign.