Did you know that Pennsylvania has the most confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the country? And Bucks County has the second highest number of cases in the state. Hunterdon County has one of the highest number of cases in New Jersey. Scary. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is known to be carried in Pennsylvania's most common ticks. Ticks in our area can also transmit Rocky Moutain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, and Human Babesiosis. Unfortunately, 2017 is predicted to be an explosive year for ticks in our area due to a very mild winter and also because of last year's mice population boom. Ticks love mice, but the mice population this year had dropped, so ticks will move on to other animals, including humans.
Ticks thrive in areas with tall grass and leaf litter. When walking on trails, try to stay in the center and avoid brushing up against vegetation. It's always best to wear light clothing so it's easier to see ticks crawling on you. The CDC recommends using repellants with 20-30% DEET. Take a shower as soon as possible after coming indoors in order to wash off climbing ticks. Put your clothes in the dryer for an hour to kill remaining ticks. You can also use a sticky lint roller to run over yourself and your pets to pick up any free-roaming ticks. If you would rather not use DEET, many people swear by natural essential oils, though we must disclose that this has not been proven or FDA approved. In a small spray bottle, combine 20 drops of lemongrass oil, 20 drops of eucalyptus globulus oil and 1/2 cup of water. Shake well.
Try to get in the habit of doing a thorough tick check on you and your family (and outdoor PETS) every night when ticks are most prevalent (typically warmer months, though they can be found all year). Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
If you find a biting tick, the CDC recommends using fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
If you would like some peace of mind, you can send the tick in for testing to make sure it was not carrying any diseases. We can't speak on which lab to use, but we ourselves have used IGeneX. If you google "tick test" you will find several other labs.
There are things you can do in your own yard to dissuade ticks:
For more information on Tick Management:
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Tick Management Handbook (PDF)
Cooper Pest Solutions Tick Service
Brooks and Barber Tree Service Tick Management Program
Understanding and Preventing Tick Bites
How to Prevent and Treat New or Recent Tick Bites
How to Keep Ticks Out of Your Yard
Links to Other Sites