Hunters! It’s Deer Tick Protection Time

deerticks2There is this nasty pest of a disease called Lyme. This is becoming a breakout year for deer tick numbers in the northeast, especially New York, and the infested percentage of deer ticks with Lyme is increasing rapidly. Be cautious, here is more about what to know and what to do.

Beautiful and majestic deer are a joy to watch, though any size deer could be a deer tick infested Lyme disease carrier. Forrest Fisher Photo

Hunters, hikers, campers, bird watchers, dog walkers and everyone else, please listen up and heed this friendly outdoor notice of information to be safe while you are outdoors.

For most hunters, it would be unusual to say you have never been bitten by a tick – many of us don’t even know we have. If you have hunted long hours in the last few decades, you have probably been bit or have picked off a blood-sucking tick that was burrowing into your body somewhere and without prior knowledge, thought it was a pesky, tiny, black fly because you had blood there when you finished. It was possibly a tick.

Ticks can carry Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis, all related sorts of really nasty long word disease stuff, and even dog ticks (these are much larger than deer ticks) can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and other disease.

Yes, it’s scary. We all go outdoors, but if we are educated and aware, we do at least know more about things. That’s the key, to be aware. So read on and please be sure to go protected from deer ticks. It’s not advice, this is simply a request to intelligent outdoor folks, especially deer hunters – archery season is open in many parts of the USA, to coat their camo, outerwear and gear with a spray coat of Permethrin (Sawyer Products) the day before heading out, then let it dry (https://sawyer.com). This applies to everyone who may go outdoors anywhere in WNY, not just hunters. The coating on your clothes will last for about six or seven washings.

This coating will help protect you from the nearly invisible (very tiny) crawling anthropods (like a spider) and reduce the likelihood of you becoming bit – it is a painless bite, you may never know you were bit. The protective clothing spray will potentially prevent you from being stricken with serious Lyme disease and never finding out you have it until after the disease is imbedded in your system. This simple spray product is only about $12-$14 in most local stores. Do it and be safe.

The deer ticks are spread by mice, but the mice also drop them off on deer when they bed, so deer can have them too – hence the name, deer ticks. Dogs, cats, squirrels, chipmunks, birds – all warm blooded creatures can carry the ticks too.  So can your wood pile! You might find nests of deer ticks from mice in your wood pile, be observant, you can see them visually.

Dogs and cats are the number one carrier of ticks from the outdoors to inside your home and to you, so extra caution is required if you have a pet. Pets (mostly dogs) are the number one reason for people bitten by deer ticks inside their home (and never finding out until years later).

deerticks3If you are a lucky hunter, maybe you don’t believe me and want to see how many ticks your harvested deer is carrying. Drop a patch of dry ice on the floor after you hang your deer. The ticks will fall out like ball bearings. You’ll be impressed and hopefully encouraged to protect yourself.

The ticks find us humans by detecting our carbon dioxide output when we breathe, since they cannot see or hear. The dry ice is made of carbon dioxide, as it evaporates, they sense it and seek it. Be sure to shower thoroughly after field dressing your fresh deer. Lyme disease is a killer when it is not noticed because these are really small bugs and “they can’t hurt me” thoughts are common among us big, small and husky hunters.

Adult deer ticks are most prevalent from October through December seeking a final blood meal before hibernating for the winter. Hunters beware.

If you’re out at hunting camp and there are no showers, strip down and inspect yourself for ticks. You must do this to be sure. Look very carefully at your armpits, groin, the nape of your neck and back of your knees. If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers and save it for your doctor. Then see your doctor, pronto.

deerticks4If you are bit and can see the burrowed, blood-sucking tick in you, or see a circular rash that can result for every one of three folks that are bitten, get to a doctor and demand 30 days of Doxycycline antibiotic (the same treatment used to treat Bubonic Plague). Do not wait for the blood test results, if you do, it’ll likely be too late to kill it and, once established, Lyme disease is a life-long affliction that you can only hope to put into remission later. That can be tough. That is, if you survive the unending flu symptoms, brain fog, arthritis symptoms, paralyzing fibromyalgia, organ and bone pain, testicular pain and dozens of other possible Lyme disease effects that doctors in New York and elsewhere admit they do not understand well. Most insurance plans pay for only 8 days of “doxy”, you may have to pay for the rest.

Early diagnosis and immediate treatment are key to controlling this disease. Depending on your type of system, we are all unique in many ways, even late treatments of “doxy” can cure the affliction, but most folks that learn about the disease they have contracted weeks and months and years later, can only hope for remission.

Trust me when I share with you that these insidious little bugs can bring all of us to our knees and our end of life as we know it. Be cautious, go protected. Get the Permethrin for your clothes and another product, Picaridin, for your exposed skin. These products not only repel the ticks, they kill them upon contact. This applies to just sitting in your tree stand, hiking the field trails or woods, and the rest of things we and friends all do outside too, that includes fishing from a boat.

Take it from someone who has learned the best about surviving this affliction from the worst form of experience. Be aware, be protected and be safe. It’s a start to staying healthy because most of us love the outdoors, play and sleep in the outdoors and want to do it for all time.

The Permethrin clothing spray is odorless for concerns from archery hunters (not all tick protection spray is odorless). If you are going outdoors hunting or just going outdoors, just do the spray your clothes thing. Just do it and rest easy.

Deer tick sign notices with Lyme disease warnings are posted in many areas these days. The signs are there for good reason, to help you be aware and help you understand that you need to protect yourself from this invasive little critter we now know as the deer tick. Now you know how!

Lastly, during autumn each year, mosquitoes and black flies can be plentiful too, and they are a distracting bother if you hunt much. To prevent flying critter disturbance, clip on a Thermacell unit to your backpack or camo layer (https://www.thermacell.com/). The scent emitted from this device is from a flower that is also an attractant to deer (chrysanthemums), but flying insects hate it and won’t come near it. Go figure. Cost is only about $20 and these units last for many years.

Share life with others, make new friends in the outdoors, lead by example. Please email me with any questions at dbarus35@yahoo.com.

Protect your Pet – Homemade Flea and Tick Spray

It’s hiking season, camping season, turkey hunting season – it is TICK SEASON too!

These ”black-legged ticks” (Ixodes scapularis) are known to transmit Lyme disease are often carried by mice and other hosts. Photo from Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, University of Iowa

With folks all over the country heading to the comforts of the woodland country in spring, people and pets often complain of flu-like symptoms, aching joints, painful laziness and a host of other issues a few weeks after returning home. Dogs and cats too, can get a nasty disease known as that has recently Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is contracted from a microscopic bacteria transferred to pets and people from the bite of an infected black-legged tick (also known as deer tick).  The largest majority of these ticks are carried about by mice and other rodents, not deer, though deer can also carry them too.   The thing to know about today is that May and June are the two months each year when the nymph stage of these ticks transfer from mice to other hosts.  They feed for about 24 hours (burrow in and suck blood) and this is when they deposit any possible disease infection they may carry – like Lyme disease.

The nymph stage ticks are nearly invisible – smaller than the head of a straight pin, and their bite is nearly painless.  If you have a high pain threshold, you might not even detect it.  The tick nymphs will transfer to dogs, pets and people from many places, but the most common is high standing grass or bushes, like when you’re hiking in fields or trimming your front bushes.

The nymph critters await their host in a sort of open-leg position and have sensors that await the touch of a possible passing host (your leg, your dog, etc.), then attach like sticky bubblegum to dry paper.  Then they climb to soft skin areas and burrow in.  These areas can be anywhere, but are often the groin, armpits, back or the nape of your neck.

protectpet2For people, there is one prevention aid that is lab proven to deter the pests, that is the use of Permethrin (https://sawyer.com/products/permethrin-premium-insect-repellent/) to spray your clothes (not your skin).  Spray the open exterior ends of your pants, shirts, exterior of socks and the exterior of your shoes.  Let dry.  Ticks hate the stuff and will fall off if they should attempt to find your leg.  This protection is good for seven washes.  Needless to say, wearing shorts and hiking in high grass is not recommended.  Sorry.  Wear light colored clothing to allow easy visual detection of the dark colored ticks that may opt to attach on your clothes.

For dogs and pets, there is a simple and effective tick and flea formula that is currently on a Facebook page by Cindy Diane (https://www.facebook.com/cinlight2) that uses a combination of the home cupboard ingredients to control the tick and flea pests on pets, though I use it on myself everyday too.  Ingredients: 8 oz apple cider vinegar, 4 oz warm water, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda and you’ll need a spray bottle.  Mix dry ingredients first, then slowly add to wet as the vinegar and baking soda will react slightly.  Put into spray bottle and spray pets down.  Be careful not to get in pets eyes and ears.  There are additional insights on washing the pets and using this formula, to see them, visit Cindi Diane at the link above.

It’s turkey season, it’s hiking season, it’s camping season, it is tall grass growing season.  It is TICK SEASON too.

protectpet3

Lyme disease is a life-long disease if not detected early and identifying this disease is complicated.  If you are bitten by a tick and can recover the tick, save it for pathology.  Then get to a doctor for clinical evaluation and request doxycycline immediately.  Also request a blood test and insist that it be sent to IGeneX Lab in California (http://www.igenex.com/files/should_know.pdf).  There is an extra cost for this test and the cost is not covered by many insurance companies.  Get whatever the usual tests that your doctor recommends and then also request the IGeneX test.  Do yourself a favor and pay for it.  The option is not worth the difference!

In my recent experience with Lyme patients, this lab is the one lab that can identify if Lyme is actually present in your system – then you can be properly treated.  There are other blood tests that claim they also work, but they are not as reliable from what current Lyme patients have shared with me in interviews directly.

Remember too, ticks carry may other nasty disease pathogens. The best cure is prevention.

Stay aware, stay protected, stay safe!

Anti-Tick Tactics – Protect Yourself

This national Lyme disease map from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides an illustration of the approximate distribution of predicted Lyme disease risk in the United States. Note that Western New York is at high risk.

Warm weather is back. Hooray!  Break out the camo clothes and turkey calls, fishing rods and binoculars.  It’s time to enjoy the great outdoors again, but as you pursue outdoor fun, don’t forget that there are some less-than-desirable things pursuing you as well.  Foremost among those things are ticks, there are several types, but deer ticks- also known as black –legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), have recently become known as the “bad boys.”  They’re very, very tiny, hard to see, and their bite is nearly painless.

For as long as I can recall – and I can recall more years than like – ticks have been a source of concern beyond the “ick” factor.  Back in the day, we worried about tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever.  More recently, we have added Lyme disease, Lyme-like disease, Ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, borreliosis and probably a few others that haven’t crossed my radar yet.

Tick identification and relative size by stage in comparison. Courtesy of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The good news is that many of us will not get any of these maladies.  The bad news is that the chances of getting them are NOT ZERO and the consequences are potentially life-changing.  You want to do everything you can to reduce your chances of getting any tick-borne disease.

The additional good news is that there are excellent and very effective means of avoiding ticks.

Your first line of defense is clothing.  Long-sleeved shirts and long pants make it harder for ticks to reach your skin.  The wide variety of lightweight fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin makes it much more pleasant to dress for tick defense than it used to be.  Choose light colors to make it easy to see ticks that hitch a ride before they find an opening in your defenses.  You can further enhance clothing’s protective value by tucking pants legs into boots or using rubber bands to hold cuffs snug against your ankles and wrists.

These clothing measures are most effective when combined with chemical repellants.  Far and away the most effective of these is permethrin.  This chemical is lethal to ticks on contact, and they know it.  Just drop a tick on permethrin-treated clothing and see how it scrambles to get off!

Permethrin-based repellants are amazingly effective and because they work on all mites too, they also provide protection against the dread chigger mite.  Permethrin has low toxicity to humans and is poorly absorbed by skin.  It’s odorless once it dries, however, it is a toxin.  So the recommended method of usage is by spraying on clothing.  This is the best of all possible approaches anyway.  Once sprayed on clothes, permethrin-based repellants remain effective even after several washings. It’s actually not the water and detergent that remove it, but rather abrasion.  So to retain tick repellency as long as possible, wash garments on gentle cycle and line-dry them, rather than running them through a clothes dryer.

Do be aware that cats are more sensitive to permethrin than dogs or other mammals.  If you have cats in your home, keep them away from areas where you are spraying clothing, and change clothes before inviting Fluffy up on your lap.

I buy my permethrin in bulk online and treat several changes of clothes at once.  I lay the garments out on the driveway and spray one side, let them dry for a few minutes and then turn all the shirts, pants and socks over and repeat the process.  I keep treated clothes separate from the rest of my wardrobe so I know which ones to wear to the woods.

The next-most-effective tick deterrent is DEET (N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide).  Experts aren’t sure how DEET works, but there’s no question that it does.  Like permethrin, it is supposed to be applied to clothing, not skin.  Unlike permethrin, DEET comes off in the wash. It melts plastic, which is another significant disadvantage, and it smells awful and continues to smell as long as it is effective.  You don’t want to get this stuff in your eyes, but it works.

If you want real protection, go with permethrin or DEET.

Of course, even with the best of protection, you are going to get bitten occasionally.  This doesn’t have to be a problem. Your biggest risk of infection comes when a tick has fed for a while and regurgitates some of its stomach contents into your skin. This is most likely to happen some time after it attaches to you, so early removal is very important.

It’s hard to see every place on your body, so it makes sense to do a tick check with a friend as soon as possible after outings. (Insert joke here.)  When you find a tick DO NOT use one of the old methods of removal, such as touching it with a hot pin or covering it with a turpentine-soaked cotton ball. These methods will almost certainly cause the tick to regurgitate, which is the last thing you want.

ticktactics3

Instead, use the following procedure:

  • Use sharp, needle-style tweezers or your fingers covered with rubber gloves or a piece of tissue paper to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  • Avoid squeezing the tick’s body.
  • Pull the tick slowly and steadily straight away from the skin until it pops free. This can take a few minutes.
  • Disinfect the bite area and tweezers/fingers with alcohol.

Then you have two choices, save the tick for medical analysis and review (place it in a tissue and insert in a pill bottle) or destroy the tick.  If you live in an area with high density to Lyme disease, save it and get the tick analyzed, and get to a doctor.  If not, it’s up to you.  I usually drop them in a jar of alcohol, a fire, etc.  They’re nasty critters and deserve it, or you can just flush it down the toilet, like my wife does.  If you are removing lots of ticks, it’s handy to use a piece of duct tape to corral them until you decide their fate.

Most tick bites are no big deal. However, you should keep an eye on them to be sure you don’t develop a bullseye rash at the bite site. If you do, get to a doctor for treatment.  Tick-borne diseases don’t mess around and you shouldn’t either.

It’s actually possible to have serious medical problems even if you don’t get one of the more dangerous tick-borne diseases from a bite.  Pay special attention to any tick bite on the head or neck. The proximity to the head and its sensitive neural tissue poses an increased risk of serious side effects from tick-borne diseases.

Besides the tick-borne diseases listed above, some people are particularly sensitive to the substances that ticks inject into bite victims, just as some people are extra sensitive to shellfish or peanuts.  For these unfortunate few, any tick bite is extremely unpleasant and some can be dangerous.  Tick toxicosis begins with reddening and swelling at the bite site.  If you get a reaction that goes beyond the usual slight redness at the bite site, seek medical help right away.  It’s not worth the risk of having it get worse.

Under no circumstances let fear of ticks keep you from enjoying the outdoors.  Be prepared by taking the proper precautions and enjoy the outdoors.