Lyme Disease: How to Protect You and Your Pets From Ticks This Fall
Please pass the DEET.
It’s no-shave November, the final stretch of time to order a PSL, and, unfortunately, peak tick season. Impressively repulsive for their tiny size, these little buggers are prime transmitters of Lyme disease. The bugs, which are part of the spider family, first acquire Lyme disease by feeding on another animal before delivering it to an unfortunate human.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, is an easily-treatable illness primarily transmitted by infected ticks. The symptoms aren’t subtle — the disease plays an unpleasant form of show and tell, often giving victims a red, inflamed bullseye mark on their skin, the center indicating exactly where a tick took hold. The mark, called erythema migrans, doesn’t appear in all recipients, though. Other early symptoms include fever, fatigue, and headaches. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to facial paralysis and arthritis.
Thanks to modern medicine, a few weeks of antibiotics typically provides an easy cure.
How to Deal With Ticks
The best-case scenario is avoiding the disease altogether. Whenever you spend time in a place where ticks may be lurking, such as forests or tall grass, a tick check comes in handy. As ticks like to hide in tight, warm places, check your hairline, armpits, groin, and anywhere where fabric provides a nice place to nestle, like pant cuffs. When checking a pet or someone with longer hair, using a comb can help you get a cleaner look.
If you do find one of the suckers attached to the skin, these two methods can help: Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull gently until it lets go. But be gentle — pull too suddenly, and its mouth parts could get left behind in the wound. Alternatively, you could scrape a credit card against the skin to flip the tick on its back, forcing it to let go.
There’s bad advice floating around the internet to burn the tick with a match or smother it in Vaseline. But these violent DIY remedies will only worsen the situation, as the tick will throw up while still attached, fast-tracking the journey of Borrelia burgdorferi into its victim, pet or human.
Now, to prevent ticks from attaching in the first place, look for permethrin-treated clothing, or pick up the go-to insect repellent DEET. If it’s good enough for the US Army, it’s good enough for the rest of us.
If you’re still willing to venture outside this season, best of luck. May you and your pets remain tick-free.