Neighbors for Neighbors

Do stuff with and for your neighbors

First of all, ticks are everywhere. Including lawns. Tick denisties vary by region and impervious surfaces. Essex and Middlesex county are leaders in the state for tickage. In the woods, they are more commonly found in the thick leaf litter, especially oak. In lawn, well, the grass.

Ticks cause Lyme disease. In people and pets (such as dogs).

Lyme disease symptoms in people can vary widely. A person may be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies, the flu or a basic skin rash. One person I know was slammed with every symptom in the book, including Bells Palsy (where half the face is paralyzed). Another friend was misdiagnosed for years and suffers permanent nervous system damage. And a note about the bullseye rash. It doesn't happen as often as people think.

If you think you might have been exposed ( ie, symtoms, imbedded tick or realization that you are super outdoorsy but never been tested), require that your doctor test for Lyme. Yes, you will probably get some resistance due to not being familiar with circumstances, but do it. UMass Amherst will test the tick for Lyme if you prefer that route. The antivirals prescribed are very heavy duty and are meant to crush the first stages of Lyme.

Tell your doctor if you are in a higher risk position (environmental professionals, search and rescue, chronic campers) . Make him/her put it in the file. Sounds odd, but even though my physician knew about my career, she never made the connection of being high risk. I assumed she knew.

As for dogs, my parent's dog, Molly, reacts by having very occasional seizures. The vets don't know why, but the seizures seemed to help control the disease in her. My dog, Kirby, shows no symtoms at all and is being monitored for changes. It sometimes settles in the joints, so take note if your pup still seems oddly arthritic a week after a walk. There is a vaccine, but it can't be administered if the dog is positive for Lyme.

You can't get Lyme from other people or dogs.

Spring and fall ticks dig deeper into the flesh than summer ticks.

Last of all, and perhpas the greatest misconception, ticks to do not have a season. They are temperature sensitive. If it is warm enough (even for 2 days) for yardwork to be comforatably done in a sweatshirt, the ticks find it comfortable enough to do their work.

To answer an unasked question. I do not have Lyme, but nearly every one of my environmental collegues does.

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Comment by Ivy Vigne on March 23, 2009 at 12:36pm
You have to watch out for ticks on your own property, too - they aren't just a threat in the great outdoors. Keep your grass short, and try to clear up any scruffy, leafy areas. I got concerned after a local friend was diagnosed with Lyme, and I found a tick on my dog shortly afterwards. I have used damminix tick tubes (www.ticktubes.com) ever since, and they seem to work great. They are ecologically friendly, too (just not for the ticks, eh).
Comment by John Booker on March 20, 2009 at 5:04pm
Nice post Stacy! Any advice on avoiding exposure?
Myself, I just do a really thorough tick check when I'm camping. They like to attach in areas that are hard to see between folds of skin, under waist bands, etc. You want to check for ticks as soon as you can after being in the woods or tall grass, as it takes them time to find a place to feed. If you get them before they bite you're fine (and if they do bite, you want to get them as soon as possible!).
Also be aware that ticks can be tiny! The nymph stage of tick growth is probably a lot smaller than what most of us probably imagine when we hear "tick."

Thanks for the reminder!

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