A good portion of the United States escaped what would normally have been a very cold and very snowy time of the year. Winter was relatively mild for most of us for the second year in a row. Though most of us were likely happy with this year’s reduced heating and snowplowing bills, there are certain repercussions for not having the winter that our area normally sees - such as a much heavier than normal tick season.
Normally, we do not hear a lot about ticks until at least May when the warmer weather coaxes them out and the last of the snow has melted. However, we are starting to see them earlier this year thanks to a couple of factors. First, the mild weather has had them active earlier which means an earlier breeding season. Secondly, thanks to the mild winter last year, 2016 saw a massive explosion in the mouse population. Popular belief tells us that the deer grazing in the woods around your home are responsible for the ticks that you might find on your favorite furry friend, but deer could never spread ticks in the numbers that are pulled off Fido or our own legs every day. The main culprits spreading ticks far and wide are mice and other rodents: the larger the population of these rodents, the larger the population of ticks found outside.
May has been designated as Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Throughout the United States in May you can count on many activities to raise money for research as well as to raise awareness for this potentially debilitating disease that interrupts more and more lives across the country each year. The Lyme Disease Foundation encourages everyone to learn about tick and Lyme prevention all month long to help stop the spread.
Lyme disease is an acute inflammatory disease that is spread by the ticks that latch on to our legs, arms, or other areas of the body without our knowledge. People can pick up ticks doing almost anything outside such as hiking, picnicking, gardening, or even playing with our pets or our children in the backyard. If these ticks go unnoticed on either a pet or on ourselves we can contract Lyme, leaving us with devastating consequences.
Many people ask, “How can we prevent Lyme disease? We can’t just stay inside all of the time”; but the best way to prevent Lyme is vigilance. Make sure that you are fully clothed before outside activities such as gardening or hiking. Tucking your pant legs into your socks can help prevent ticks from crawling up your legs. Using repellent can also help.
When your outdoor activity ends, be sure to check your body and your children’s bodies carefully for any tiny ticks that might have come aboard. If any are found, carefully remove the tick with a tool for that purpose or a thin pair of tweezers then clean the area well with antiseptic. Any tick found immediately should not have had time to spread Lyme, but watch the area closely for signs of a rash. If you suspect anything at all make sure to see a medical professional.