A "Tick Explosion" Is Coming This Summer, and No One Is Safe
Warm weather is finally here, ushering in picnics, trips to the beach, and a giant “tick explosion,” according to health experts.
Dr. Thomas Mather, the director of the University of Rhode Island’s tick-borne disease center, warns that this summer will see higher than average tick populations throughout the country. “They’re up and looking for a host hoping something will walk by that they can latch on,” he told Boston’s WXFT.
Though tick populations are active from April through October, they tend to rise in the summer, and numbers this year are expected to be higher than previous seasons, thanks to bizarre weather patterns that provide ideal environments for the blood suckers. This means you’re at greater risk of coming into contact with a tick this year, which in turn puts you at greater risk of getting Lyme Disease.
To make matters worse, while we typically think that ticks tend to be concentrated in rural, woody areas, Kayla Socarras, a microbiology researcher at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, Penn., says ticks can be a problem in every region of the United States.
But it’s not hard to protect yourself from these creepy creatures. Here’s how.
1) Wear the Right Clothes.
After months of enduring heavy coats and bulky sweaters, the last thing you want is to hide under more layers of clothes. But Socarras says long-sleeved shirts and pants are the best way to ward off bites.
She also recommends trading grey and black for summer white, as bugs tend to blend in with darker items.
“Wear light-colored clothing,” she tells MensHealth.com. “You’re much more able to spot the ticks on your legs.” Stuff your pants into your socks for ultimate protection.
2) Invest in Sprays.
When it’s just too damn hot for long sleeves and you yearn to feel the sun on your skin. you should turn to insect repellents, advises Dr. Michael Zimring of the Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
Look for formulas containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus to deter ticks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you’re really overzealous, you can even spray your clothes with products containing permethrin, which will stay on garments even after a few cycles through the washer.
“The permethrin is good for four to six weeks, maybe more,” he tells MensHealth.com.
3) Perform Tick Checks.
Even if you follow every tick-fighting tip in the book, Socarras recommends thoroughly checking your skin for black spots after a trip outside.
“Ticks are so small, people sometimes confuse them for a freckle,” she warns.
You should also hop in the shower to wash off and inspect your more, um, hidden regions. “They like moist areas, like the groin and under your arms,” Socarras says.
4) Don’t Assume Ticks Only Lurk in the Woods.
Ticks are more than just a nuisance for hikers and outdoorsy types. They can also be found in city parks and backyard apple trees. If you have one in your backyard, pick up any fruit and clear out dead leaves, which can also harbor ticks, Zimring suggests.
City dwellers also aren’t in the clear. Ticks can easily latch on to birds, mice and other animals while you’re enjoying that Sunday picnic in the grass.
“In general, you can be bitten by a tick in the most urban of places. It’s a common misconception that you can’t get bitten in the city,” Socarras says. “I would recommend that everyone takes precaution.”
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