If you live in a deer-infested environment (like Howard County, Maryland), and you have dogs and need to walk them, or just enjoy going for hikes in the woods, you have probably come across a tick or two in the last few weeks. October is one of the months during which ticks are most active.
Yup, April and October. You might be surprised by this. I was. I assumed ticks would be most abundant in the heat of summer, but no. Spring and fall are when they really make an effort to put themselves out there and socialize with their hosts.
This means the threat of Lyme disease goes up during these months. Lyme disease is a very serious, insidious, and even life-threatening disease spread by deer ticks. (These ticks are so ridiculously small, I can't even see them without my glasses!) The scariest thing about it is that it can lurk, hidden, within your body and not show up for days, weeks, months, or even years. But while it is lurking, it can damage your nervous system, including your brain, perhaps permanently.
You may have heard that Lyme disease shows up as a bulls-eye rash around the bite site. This is only true, however, for a very small percentage of infections. Lyme can also present as a flu-like illness, with fever, chills, and overall achiness. This is extremely easy to miss, unless you know already that you were bitten by a tick. You could easily just believe you had the flu. Other symptoms might take months or years to develop--like joint pain that comes and goes, memory loss, even dementia.
As you already know, I get all my information from Facebook. So I thought I'd share another vital tidbit I learned there: Use a lint-roller for catching and removing ticks! It was recommended for use on dogs, but could work on other animals, as well as humans.
I was a little skeptical at first, but a pack of 5 lint-rollers was on sale at Costco for about $10. Might as well give it a shot, I thought. As you might guess, the rollers work best on dogs that are not wet! (Ours are usually pretty damp after a trek through the woods, across the river, etc.) But even on wet fur, the rollers still picked up a few deer ticks this morning! And the rollers work on human clothing, of course. If you're wearing dark colors (which are not recommended when trying to avoid ticks) the link roller is a quick way to pick up any ticks not readily visible.
As soon as you've caught a tick, I recommend removing it from the sticky paper and disposing of it before it can wriggle free, drop off on the floor, and make its getaway. Ticks may not be smart, but they are certainly tricky! And slippery! The tiny buggers are experts at avoiding capture.
In addition to using the lint roller, we apply Frontline to our dogs every 30 days. And we have also vaccinated against Lyme disease. However, all of these precautions do nothing for humans trying to avoid the disease. Keeping the ticks off is the only way to ensure you won't get bitten.
If you know you were bitten by a deer tick, please see your doctor immediately. This is one disease you must take seriously. Antibiotics are necessary for fighting the infection.
If you have experienced Lyme disease, have tips to help others avoid ticks, or anything else you'd like to share, please leave a comment below. Thanks!