Tips on Ticks and Prevention

Like so many people who live for the outdoors, I’ve spent much of my time in the woods and waters of Maine until, at age 26, an unexpected rash brought my life to a screeching halt.

Tick habitat

Photo: Jaclyn Sanipass

As a trained wilderness guide and a Maine native, I was well aware that Lyme disease existed here in the Northeast. Yet, I didn’t know its devastating effects when I developed the familiar bull’s eye rash in 2006. I wished I’d known more before becoming bed-bound for more than two years and succumbing to a desperate search for my health. Luckily after seven years, I fully recovered with the help of a team of doctors, neurological rehabilitation, and support through adaptive sports programs. Now I am back running trails, backpacking, and practicing martial arts in the elements again.

The cool, fresh mornings of spring in Maine open up so many opportunities to go outside and focus on healthy activities. As green begins to return in the forests, it seems to draw people from their homes and call them back to the great outdoors.

Staying healthy outdoors is on the mind of many fresh-air seekers hitting the trails this summer season. Whether you are hiking, backpacking, camping, trail running, , or gardening—there is potential for tick exposure. Children are most susceptible because they tend to play outdoors the most, and people who spend time outdoors are at a higher risk. Pets let outdoors can also pose a risk, as they are likely to carry ticks back into the home.

Avoid Bushwacking; Stay on Trails

Try to stay out of the long grass as many ticks stand on the end of the blades of grass reaching up with their legs, ready to attach to whatever happens to walk by. They will attach to a pant leg, shoe, or sock and then migrate upwards, looking for warmth.

Tick habitat

Photo: Jaclyn Sanipass

Tick Checks are Extremely Important 

I do quick tick checks along the trail, especially if I travel through low brush, leaf litter, or tall grasses. I do another check once I return to my car. Then once back at home, I do a thorough tick check. Use your hand to rub along your skin as it may be easy to mistake a tiny deer tick for a freckle. A tick will be raised slightly so you might be able to feel one more easily than being able to see it. Use a mirror to check your back. Then, throw your clothes in the washer and dryer. Be sure to check thoroughly. Favorite places for ticks are behind the knees, armpits, waistline, groin, and scalp.

What if you find an attached tick?

Remove ticks as soon as you see them. There are tick scoops that you can find at most outdoor stores or use regular tweezers. Grasp it as close to your skin as possible and pull with a gentle tug. Try to avoid breaking the tick. If broken, the head of the tick will be left inside the skin and may cause irritation. If you suspect infection, consult your physician right away.

Take a picture of the embedded tick. Write down the day and time that it was found embedded in case you need to have it examined or keep records for a doctor. Watch the area for any signs of rash and note any developments of other symptoms such as headaches, nausea, malaise, diarrhea, fever, etc.

In short, always be mindful of where you walk this summer. Not all ticks carry infectious diseases and not every bite will lead to disease. But better to be careful, educated, and aware. Consult your physician if you suspect you may have a tick-borne illness.

Jaclyn Sanipass is a survivor in complete recovery of neurological Lyme disease and Babesiosis. After a seven-year battle, she returned to the wilderness and led women’s retreats for more than 10 years. Her newly released book It’s In Your Dreams is a novel about her life as a wilderness guide and her journey of healing from Lyme disease.

Like so many people who live for the outdoors, I’ve spent much of my time in the woods and waters of Maine until, at age 26, an unexpected rash brought my life to a screeching halt.

As a trained wilderness guide and a Maine native, I was well aware that Lyme disease existed here in the Northeast. Yet, I didn’t know its devastating effects when I developed the familiar bull’s eye rash in 2006. I wished I’d known more before becoming bed-bound for more than two years and succumbing to a desperate search for my health. Luckily after seven years, I fully recovered with the help of a team of doctors, neurological rehabilitation, and support through adaptive sports programs. Now I am back running trails, backpacking, and practicing martial arts in the elements again.

The cool, fresh mornings of spring in Maine open up so many opportunities to go outside and focus on healthy activities. As green begins to return in the forests, it seems to draw people from their homes and call them back to the great outdoors. 

Staying healthy outdoors while maintaining the proper social distance is still on the minds of many fresh-air seekers hitting the trails this summer season. Yet, there is more to think about beyond the current pandemic when heading out on that next adventure.

Whether you are hiking, backpacking, camping, trail running, participating in one of the new virtual trail races, or gardening—there is potential for tick exposure. Children are most susceptible because they tend to play outdoors the most, and people who spend time outdoors are at a higher risk. Pets let outdoors can also pose a risk, as they are likely to carry ticks back into the home.

Avoid Bushwacking; Stay on Trails

Try to stay out of the long grass as many ticks stand on the end of the blades of grass reaching up with their legs, ready to attach to whatever happens to walk by. They will attach to a pant leg, shoe, or sock and then migrate upwards, looking for warmth.

Tick Checks are Extremely Important 

I do quick tick checks along the trail, especially if I travel through low brush, leaf litter, or tall grasses. I do another check once I return to my car. Then once back at home, I do a thorough tick check. Use your hand to rub along your skin as it may be easy to mistake a tiny deer tick for a freckle. A tick will be raised slightly so you might be able to feel one more easily than being able to see it. Use a mirror to check your back. Then, throw your clothes in the washer and dryer. Be sure to check thoroughly. Favorite places for ticks are behind the knees, armpits, waistline, groin, and scalp.

What if you find an attached tick?Hungry deer tick

Remove ticks as soon as you see them. There are tick scoops that you can find at most outdoor stores or use regular tweezers. Grasp it as close to your skin as possible and pull with a gentle tug. Try to avoid breaking the tick. If broken, the head of the tick will be left inside the skin and may cause irritation. If you suspect infection, consult your physician right away.

Take a picture of the embedded tick. Write down the day and time that it was found embedded in case you need to have it examined or keep records for a doctor. Watch the area for any signs of rash and note any developments of other symptoms such as headaches, nausea, malaise, diarrhea, fever, etc.

In short, always be mindful of where you walk this summer. Not all ticks carry infectious diseases and not every bite will lead to disease. But better to be careful, educated, and aware. Consult your physician if you suspect you may have a tick-borne illness.

BE TICK AWARE

The Global Lyme Alliance, a research and education organization based in Connecticut, gives suggestions on their website to help people to “Be Tick AWARE,” which is an acronym for the following:

AVOID areas where ticks live. Ticks thrive in woodpiles, leaf litter, long grass, beach grass, bushy areas, stone walls, and perimeters where the lawn meets the woods.

WEAR light-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily, long-sleeved shirts tucked in at the waist, long pants tucked into high socks, closed-toe shoes, and a hat with your hair tucked in, if possible. Do not walk in the grass barefoot or in open sandals, even if it’s cut short.

APPLY EPS-approved tick repellent (such as DEET or picaridin) and insecticide (such as permethrin) to skin, clothing, and shoes as directed.

REMOVE clothing upon entering the home; toss into the dryer at high temperature for 10-15 minutes to kill live ticks. Putting them in the washer, however, will not.

EXAMINE yourself and your pets for ticks daily. Feel for bumps paying close attention to the back of knees, groin, armpits, in and behind ears, belly button, and scalp. Check everywhere – ticks love to hide where the sun don’t shine.

ABOUT SIZE
Tick larvae are less than 1 millimeter long (the size of a poppy seed) while nymphs are 1-2 millimeters long, about the size of a pinhead. Adult ticks can range from about 2 – 6 millimeters long when unfed and can grow up to 10 millimeters long after feeding. Source: www.domyown.com

TICK TESTING
The University of Maine offers tick-testing services and provides surveillance information on ticks and tick-borne disease in Maine. To learn more visit: www.extension.umaine.edu/ticks/submit

TICKS & PETS
Monitor your pets every time they come back inside for ticks, so that they don’t carry them inside your home. Look thoroughly around the eyes and ears, between front and back legs, between toes, around the tail, and around the neck and shoulders. Consult a veterinarian about effective options for controlling ticks on dogs and cats. Source: www.domyown.com


"It's In Your Dreams" by Jaclyn Sanipass

Story by Jaclyn Sanipass, a survivor in complete recovery of neurological Lyme disease and Babesiosis. After a seven-year battle, she returned to the wilderness and led women’s retreats for more than 10 years. Her newly released book It’s In Your Dreams is a story about her life as a wilderness guide and her journey of healing from Lyme disease.


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