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Be Aware, Rather Than Beware, of Ticks

Unseasonably Warm Weather, Acorn Production Has Made Them More Common Than Usual for April

There's nothing like a little unseasonably warm weather to spill us back out onto the sidewalks. But since we've had an unseasonably warm winter and a rather May-ish March, we haven't been alone in our instincts.

Ticks, specifically black-legged or deer, rarely found themselves dormant under snow drifts this year; and, after a warm March, they're active a month or two earlier than usual this spring, scientists and vets say.

Plus, after last year's boom in acorn production, with a significant drop this year hitting the mouse population hard, scientists suggest this year's ticks may be especially hungry for blood meals.

According to Newswise, the majority will be nymphs – ticks stuck between larvae youth and adulthood. “The last time (an acorn) surplus (2006) was followed by a dismal acorn crop (2007), nymphal tick numbers hit an all-time high,” according to the article. “Expect 2012 to be another record-setting year.”

Some predict a tick boom in 2014, too, due to the critter's two-year reproductive cycle.

I'll never forget the first tick I saw. I thought it was some sort of seed latched onto my husband's family dog, and when I realized what it was, I was genuinely horrified.

This would happen again and again, when I'd lay hands on a parasite engorged on his neck. (Hey, Scrapper does live near a field.) Once I learned ticks can lie in wait for months between meals, though, just waiting for a host to come by, I began to accept their presence, as I do the bacteria I've heard live on my eyelashes.

They just – are. And fear of them is fear of the outdoors.

Granted, knowing someone or someone's dog that has contracted a disease from a tick bite, or contracting it myself, could quickly change my mind. But the odds are in our favor: Lyme disease likely only affected 23 people in Ohio in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared to places like Pennsylvania (507), that's nothin'.

Ease your fears and learn all about how to properly remove a tick, plus disease transmission, symptoms and treatment at this link.

And despite the seemingly obvious conclusion that earlier-active ticks and dog-walkers may contribute to more incidents of the disease, the Centers for Disease Control suggests no bump.

So what to do when taking advantage of the next wave of beautiful weather?

In the woods in particular — where fashion is less important and the neighbors don't judge — wear clothes that would make them visible: long, light-colored pants with the cuffs tucked into your socks and sprayed with insect repellant. If you can help it, avoid tall grass and weeds.

Safe tick creams for your dog may deter the little suckers from latching, but talk to your vet before choosing one. The American Kennel Club recommends simply running your hands through its coat to find ticks while they're still crawling around. Within two hours of your walk, jump in the shower and throw your clothes into the wash and a high-temperature dry for your own safety.

Be mindful of extra scratching or growing tick torsos. And beyond that – just walk. It's lovely out. Really it is. And it's only getting lovelier now.

Richard Pollack April 02, 2012 at 11:17 PM
All very good advice. Finding and promptly removing ticks (from a person or pet) can dramatically reduce risk of infection. Once the tick has been removed, have it identified. Only certain kinds of ticks can transmit the agents of Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Other ticks may transmit other infections. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of infection. Physical samples can be sent, or digital images uploaded, for a rapid, confidential, independent and expert evaluation. For more educational information and help with identification, visit https://identify.us.com. Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)
Betty Walsh April 09, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Am I wrong in thinking that my dogs are safe from ticks in my area, which is Mentor, Ohio?
Richard Pollack April 09, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Betty, No. Your dog is fair game for deer ticks, dog ticks and other kinds of ticks in your area. It would be wise to chat with your veterinarian about products that can be used to protect your dog. Do be mindful that veterinary products should not be used on people, and vice versa.
Tina April 10, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Well, I always like to plug Tick Tubes, which are a clever way to use nature to cut down the tick population with relatively few side effects. The tubes arrive (if you get them online - www.ticktubes.com) already filled with cotton which has been soaked in permethrin. You lay the tubes around your property, and mice are attracted to the cotton which they use for their nests. This way the pesticide gets right to the source. Most people don't know that mice actually give Lyme disease TO the tick. SO if you can get them before they get any further along the food chain, you're way ahead.

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