I made it through this past spring turkey season without acquiring any tick problems but several of my friends weren’t so lucky. Buddy Dave found a tick attached to his thigh while another friend found one in the middle of his back. Fortunately, both were able to quickly remove and dispose of the nasty critters and neither suffered any serious consequences. However, with many New Yorkers heading outdoors this summer the threat of coming in contact with a tick is a very real possibility. Campers, hikers, fishermen and even joggers are vulnerable to ticks unless steps are taken to keep them at bay. The three most common ticks in New York State are the deer (black-legged) tick, the American dog tick and the Lone star tick.
It’s widely known ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. However, what most people don’t know is that the same family of black-legged ticks can also cause other diseases and some of these diseases are even more dangerous than the dreaded Lyme disease. The worst of these lesser known diseases is Powassan disease and it kills about 10 percent of its victims. To make matters worse, half the survivors of Powassan disease are left with permanent neurological damage.
Ticks can be found just about anywhere grass grows. Deer ticks, the insect vector for Lyme disease, live in shady, moist areas at ground level and they cling to tall grass, brush and shrubs. They are also found in lawns and gardens, especially those that border a patch of woods. Deer ticks usually attach themselves to people after they brush up against the grass or shrub on which the tick lays waiting. People should know deer ticks can’t jump and they don’t fly; they get on humans and animals only by direct contact. Once a tick gets on the skin, it generally climbs upward until it reaches an area of the body it likes. Armpits, the groin and even the small of the back are favorite tick hiding spots.
While avoiding ticks can be problematic, there are steps people venturing outdoors can take to keep them from becoming a tick victim. Anyone who hikes, gardens, camps, hunts, works or otherwise spend time in the outdoors can still protect themselves by wearing a light-colored, long-sleeve shirt and long pants that are tucked into boots. The light-colored clothing makes any clinging tick easier to spot.
When hiking, it’s advisable to stay on well-used trails and to avoid contact with dense brush. If you’ve been outdoors for any length of time health officials recommend bathing or showering as soon as possible after coming indoors because doing so will allow you to wash off or more easily find any ticks that may be on you.
I’m certain I escaped being a tick host this past spring because I took the time to spray my hunting boots, shirt, pants, socks and hat with an insect spray containing a product that’s effective against a wide range of ticks, fleas, chiggers and mites. The active ingredient in these sprays is Permethrin, a synthetic insecticide in the pyrethroid family that acts like a natural extract from the chrysanthemum flower. Permethrin in various doses has been used for years to treat scabies and head lice in children, and insect sprays containing Permethin are considered relatively safe if applied according to the manufacturer’s directions. A spray containing Permethrin will effectively protect a person from ticks, fleas and chiggers, but it can’t be applied to bare skin. Instead, it must be sprayed on clothing and allowed to dry before the clothing is used. Products containing DEET will effectively keep flying insects at bay but it won’t kill ticks. I want them dead and so I use products containing Permethrin.
I know some people don’t like the idea of using a chemical spray, but in my opinion the benefits of using one far outweigh the consequences of not having done so.