Poly ticks

SCARBOROUGH — May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month. During May, Lyme patients, activists, and educators spread information on how to prevent Lyme and tick-borne diseases.  

The warmer weather is here and with it comes ticks. Because of this, it is important to be aware on one’s outdoor surroundings while enjoying nature. Ticks thrive when the spring is mild, and the summer is humid. Due to climate-related changes, Maine has a longer tick season. Following proper precautions and performing thorough full-body tick checks after being during tick season, individuals can protect themselves and family members from ticks and the diseases they carry.   

These precautions include avoiding wooded or busy areas, tall grass, and leaf litter. Walking in the center of trails, checking clothing, gear, and pets for ticks before going indoors. Do a full-body check on yourself and children before going indoors. Shower within two hours as this helps wash off unattached ticks, and place clothes in the dryer on high heat to kill ticks attached to clothing. Treat clothing boots and backpacks with products containing permethrin — follow precautions if using this product — or natural repellents. Wear protective clothing like light-colored, long-sleeved, long pants, and closed footwear. 

In most instances, people get ticks from being outside in fields, said Chuck Lubelczyk, a vector ecologist who spoke at the Vector-borne Disease Laboratory at Maine Medical Center Research Institute. The institute is dedicated to the control of emerging tick and mosquito-borne illnesses.

“However,” Lubelczyk said, “we do find that in rare cases people with companion animals, either cats or dogs, will have ticks brought into their homes. People can actually get them from the animals bringing them into homes, ticks jump off onto the bed, onto the couch and the ticks can then get on people that way. So, in many ways, a lot of the public health measures that you would do to look for ticks like tick checks or applying repellants are also applicable to your companion animals as well as yourselves. Primarily, we do tell folks what we do a lot is to actually wear very good clothes in the field. Clothing that will prevent ticks and mosquitos from getting in contact with your skin is really the first line of defense against them,” said Lubelczyk.  

In the Northeast, he said, there are two tick species: the deer tick and the American dog tick. 


“Well, up here, we see the potential for ticks at any time of the year when it gets above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the snow begins to melt,” Lubelczyk said. “So, we have tick activity, potentially, at almost any time as long as it’s warm. Ticks in the summertime generally like moister conditions. They don’t really do well in really dry conditions and deer ticks, in particular, kind of have that Goldilocks complex. They don’t like it too hot; they don’t like it too cold; they don’t like it too wet, don’t like it too dry, but if you think about your humid, warm summer days are pretty optimal for deer ticks.”  

Some common symptoms of Lyme Disease include: fatigue, neck stiffness or pain, jaw discomfort, joint aches, memory loss, vision problems, and fainting. The first symptom is often a bulls-eye rash which is a pattern that appears on the skin after a person has been bitten by a tick infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The bulls-eye rash does not appear in every case of Lyme disease. According to a Lubelczyk, 60 to 80 percent of the time a person will come down with a large bullseye that will appear three to 30 days after a tick has bitten someone.   

Upon finding a tick, remove it as soon as possible using tweezers, a tick spoon, or a tick key. Once the tick is removed, put the tick into rubbing alcohol, and wash the bite site and your hands with soap and water. Apply an antiseptic ointment to the bite site and watch for any changes. 

For more information and tips on how to take precautions during the warmer months, check out the Scarborough Conservation Commission webpage https://www.scarboroughmaine.org/stay-connected/town-news/default/~board/town-news/post/be-tick-aware-tips-from-the-scarborough-conservation-commission

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