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Tickpocalpyse Now!

Jun 28, 2017 05:44AM ● Published by Juli Couture

The headline: "Ticknado! Scarier than Sharknado!” on the University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter website caught my eye, just as I was washing up, having removed an engorged tick from my daughter's scalp. 

Once the disgust subsided, I did some further research. In last few years, it seems that these buggers (pun intended) have become absolutely ruthless, and in fact, over the last 6 months, all of the two and four-legged members of our family have found one of these little pests somewhere. They are tenacious, hard to kill and their numbers just keep rising.

 Here in Dracut, there is plenty of land frequented by wildlife that are perfect tick breeding grounds. In this area, we have to be extra diligent when it comes to protecting ourselves against ticks, and if the preventatives fail, the treatment of their nasty bites. Here are some helpful tips to keep you safe this 'Ticknado' season.

The tried and true preventative that is most widely recognized and used is a chemical called Permethrin. It is not only a repellant but kills ticks as well. You may already be familiar with this miracle compound, as it is frequently sold under the brand name of NIX, the mighty head lice killer! It is also used as a topical cream prescribed by dermatologists to kill scabies. Permethrin has been used as a repellant since the 1970s and is still used to treat military uniforms for preventing mosquito and tick bites in the field.

Permethrin is a synthetic insecticidal compound produced by the chrysanthemum flower. Studies have shown it is safe for use on pregnant women and has been rated safe to use on children over 2 months of age. 

However, when you look it up on the MSDS (material safety data sheet) website, there are warnings about having it in contact with skin, with ingestion and on clothing, in ultra-high concentrations of course. So be extra cautious to purchase a safe dilution, which is what is available to consumers at most retailers. 

Clothing, shoes and bug nets can be treated with permethrin as a repellent simply by spraying it directly on them. In fact, clothing treated with Permethrin will be effective for up to 3 to 4 weeks even with washing. A University of Rhode Island study showed that “people wearing permethrin-treated sneakers and socks were 73.6 times less likely to have a tick bite than those wearing untreated footwear.”

These pests are tenacious, however, and even if you've done everything short of hiring a wizard to cast an anti-tick spell, chances are, you or someone in your family will get bitten, so it is important to know some safe ways of removing the tick and treating the bite. There have been a lot of viral videos with different outlandish methods or removal circulating around the internet, however, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) warns that they come with their own risks and dangers. Essential oils can irritate the tick, causing it to regurgitate it’s bacteria-transmitting saliva into the site, using flame or matches can also irritate the tick or, worse, cause serious burns. 

The method of removal that is deemed safest by the CDC is to simply remove the tick with tweezers by placing the tip of the tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pulling upwards until the tick is removed. Once completely removed, check the bite site, making sure you’ve removed the entire tick then clean the area well with an antibacterial soap and warm water. Dry the area and cover it with an antibiotic ointment. Repeat the cycle as the ointment wears off. 

Now, it is important that you make note of the date you discovered and removed the tick, in case you develop any symptoms of tick-borne illness. You may mish call your primary care physician and make them aware of the bite, so they have a record of it. They will likely tell you to call them right away if you get a fever, swollen or achy joints, cold or flu like symptoms or the tell-tale bullseye rash.

Because ticks can carry a variety of different illnesses, most sources have suggested that you attempt to keep the tick in case symptoms do appear so they may classify and test it. It might be a good idea to keep jar with a tight seal on hand.

For just about everything tick-related, I found the University of Rhode Island's Tick Encounter website extremely helpful in a number of ways. First of all, it will show you how high the risk is in your area, which as of right now, our risk is high. as well as which ticks are abundant in your area. 

For us in Dracut, Blacklegged Deer Ticks and American Dog Ticks are most prevalent. You will also find the removal strategies and treatment tips mentioned above as well symptom checkers on the site. It's definitely a site to have bookmarked, as their hilarious video of the impending and terrifying 'Ticknado' implies that we have quite an infestation to look forward to this year. Stay safe and stay informed!

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