Spring is in the air! Such a wonderful time to be outdoors with the newly blooming flowers and the not-too-hot, not-too-cold weather. Unfortunately spring also brings out some unpleasant companions like ticks.
Lyme Disease and Other Reasons for Hating Ticks
Besides the yuck factor of having some bug sucking out your blood, ticks also carry disease. Oregon has 3 types of tick borne disease although Lyme Disease is probably the one you hear about most. It is a pretty nasty bacterial infection that starts out with flu like symptoms of fatigue, headache, fever and maybe a bulls eye looking rash. If untreated it will move on to attack your nervous system, joints, and heart. Like I said, nasty!
Unfortunately through misinformation, myths and difficulties in diagnosis, there has sprung up the notion that “there is no Lyme Disease in Oregon”. Too bad that is just not true. Although more common in the Northeast, Lyme disease can and does happen here.
Now this isn’t an all about Lyme Disease so if you would like to know more about Lyme Disease and other tick borne illnesses, please look at some of the resource links at the bottom of the post.
Bottom line: There is Lyme Disease and other tick borne disease in Oregon so protect yourself.
Keeping Ticks Off
The best defense is a good offense so here are some tips for keeping ticks off.
Cover up. Wear long sleeve shirts, pants and close toed shoes. I know it is hot but these will put more barrier between you and the ticks. Lighter colored clothing makes it a bit easier to see any ticks on your clothes. You can also tuck your shirt into your pants and pants into your socks. This is not stylish but I would especially recommend it where ticks are heavy.
Use spray. Bug spray discourages ticks from even wanting to be around you. Especially spray around the edges of your clothing like pant cuffs and sleeve ends where ticks can crawl in. Besides DEET sprays and permethrin (clothing only, toxic to cats) repellent, some essential oil repellents do work on ticks.
Think like a tick. Ticks cannot jump or fly so they must be able to crawl onto you, frequently from the tips of grass and brush. They also like humid places. Be extra vigilant after being in places that work well as tick habitat especially leaf litter, tall grass, and wooded areas. Keep to the center of trails to prevent brushing against long grass and picking up a little traveler. This isn’t just in the forest, it can be on your own property.
Know what to look for. Blacklegged ticks, like the one in this image, are the kind that most commonly carry disease in western Oregon. They are SMALL! Nymphs are most active in spring/summer and are the size of a poppy seed. Adults are most active in the fall and are the size of sesame seeds.
Self check while out. Some professional sources say a tick must be attached 24+ hours to transmit Lyme Disease. Others say it could take just 4-6 hours. Either way, it is better to check often and keep ticks from attaching at all. If you are going to be out for more than 4 hours, take periodic tick checks. Water or potty brakes would probably be a good time.
Self check at home. Check yourself and your children for ticks after being outdoors. Ticks especially like hidden and warm areas like in hair, behind your ears, in armpits, bellybuttons, behind your knee, and between your legs.
Shower. Taking a shower when you get inside can help wash away ticks that have not attached themselves yet, especially those small hard to see ones. You should probably do a self check before and during the shower.
Check gear and pets. Ticks can also hitch a ride home so take a look at gear and pets as well. **Dogs, cats and horses are also vulnerable to tick borne disease so make sure to protect them as well.
Use some heat. Wash your clothes after an excursion through tick territory. Or if they do not need a wash, throw them in the dryer on high for an hour to kill any ticks.
I Have a Tick! What Do I Do?
Don’t panic! It is best that you have caught the tick now.
-pull the tick straight out with needle nosed tweezers or a special tick tool
-keep the tick taped to a paper or in a container (with the date) for identification later
-treat the spot by washing with soap and water and applying antiseptic
-read up on symptoms of tick borne diseases
-talk to a doctor if you think you may be infected, especially a doctor that is familiar with treating Lyme Disease
-slather the tick with vaseline, put a match to it, or any other of those strange tick removal methods
-twist the tick as you remove it
Just be aware of where you have been and try to keep those ticks off! I know these tick pictures are just so pretty to look at but begin informed is the best thing you can do to keep yourself and your family protected.
Tyee Outdoor Experience LLC is not personally associated with any of these organizations but you may find these useful.
Lyme Disease – Oregon Public Health Division
Lyme Disease – CDC
Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) page about tick prevention for animals
Pro Remedy Tick Remover (Amazon) some people like to use a tool like this to help remove ticks.
Lyme Disease support groups in Oregon