Explore the Outdoors: Tick Season – Better Public Education Needed for Lyme Disease

| June 10, 2019

Too Many DeerA few months ago, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced that it will conduct a five-year environmental surveillance of ticks to assess the risk of tick-borne illnesses across Pennsylvania.

(AP Photo/Mike Derer)

Well, I have news for them – the risk of tick-borne illnesses is extremely high in Pennsylvania!

It is good that the state is finally recognizing this and making people more aware of it, but they should probably spend their money elsewhere, such as public education.

I believe many Pennsylvanians are full aware of how deer ticks can spread Lyme disease and other illnesses, but the message should be repeated and often!

To the best of my knowledge, Lyme disease started showing up in our region in the early 1990s, but it may have been here before that.

It was first diagnosed in 1975 in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

I’ve lost track of how many friends and acquaintances that have had Lyme disease. It’s easily dozens and probably hundreds. I’ve had it three times myself and my mother had it once.

I first learned of Lyme disease not long after I graduated college in 1993. A good friend of mine had it and couldn’t get it diagnosed until he learned of a physician, Dr. Joseph, in Hermitage, Pa., that was well ahead of the game.

My friend and others started to learn what was happening to them and getting treatment for Lyme. Typically, varying doses of antibiotics such as doxycycline, will do the trick.

Early detection is a key. The longer you have it, typically it will take longer to get rid of it.

I was lucky the three times I had it. I got a 10-day supply of antibiotic each time and it did its job each time.

When my mother had it, my Dad took her to the ER. The doctor didn’t believe what they tried to tell him and she came home with nothing. I made my Dad take her back and then she got the help she needed.

While ticks are a concern at all times of year, now is bigger because of the young ticks that are so hard to see. They can easily be on it, attach themselves and transmit a disease after a bite.

Every time I had it was from tick bites in June and July.

This is something the state recognizes.

The nymphal stage of the black-legged tick causes the most tick-borne illness in Pennsylvania due to its size and activity period. It is significantly smaller — about the size of a poppy seed — than the adult and therefore less likely to be discovered on the human body.

“The nymphal stage of the black-legged tick’s lifespan overlaps with people enjoying the outdoors in the spring and summer,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said. “Tracking and testing them at this stage is extremely important because it will allow us to more accurately pinpoint when and where risk of human illness is most prevalent and help prevent cases of Lyme disease in the future.”

Kids and older adults are most susceptible to the diseases ticks carry, but everyone should be aware of what’s going on.

Common symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a skin rash. But if left untreated the infection can spread to the joints, the heart and nervous system.

What I do recommend is that once those symptoms appear, don’t waste any time getting it checked and treated. It doesn’t matter if you go to a hospital emergency room, express service or free clinic.

Even if you have to pay out of your own pocket to get treated, it’s well worth every dollar. Living and dealing with Lyme Disease is not anything you want to do considering how easily it can be cured.

Now, this doesn’t mean I am careless when it comes to trying to prevent getting it.

I have chosen to not wear certain repellents that could keep more ticks off me, but that’s a choice for every person to make on their own.

DEET and Permethrin are the most effective tick repellents.

DEET can be applied to skin or clothing. Permethrin should not be applied directly to the skin, but it can be applied to your clothes, such as boots, pants, socks and even tents.

Parents, don’t let your kids apply this stuff. Do it for them and follow the instructions.

Ticks are most active in warm, wet weather. But it needs to be pretty cold before you won’t encounter them much in the woods.

Deer hunters should also pay particular attention if they bag one. Obviously, deer are a major carrier of the ticks.

Before I get back in the vehicle, I check myself. After arriving home, I remove my outer clothing, then place it and the rest of my clothes in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. If there are any ticks on the clothes, that will kill them.

It’s best to shower after arriving home, but if not, then do so as soon as you can.

It’s good to carry tick removers with you or at least have them at home.

There are different types of removers, but hands down, the Pro-Tick Remedy remover is the best. They only cost $5-7 and the kit comes with a small brochure on tick information.

For dog owners, I recommend using K-9 Advantix II. It not only repels ticks, it also kills the ones that do get on an animal.

Anaplasmosis is the latest tick-borne disease. Many dog owners are running into it and it causes many of the same problems for canines, including fatigue and muscle soreness.

Fortunately, it can be treated with antibiotics.

The Centers for Disease Control website at cdc.gov has a great section on dealing with ticks. It’s definitely worth checking out.

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