Cape Cod is home to not only beautiful beaches, trails, lighthouses, and piping plovers, but also to Lyme disease, the Powassan virus, and Babesiosis! Visit this page to learn some quick and easy tips on how to protect yourself and your yard from some of the nasty things that nature has to offer. Remember, it's never a good idea to get bitten by a tick!
Ticks may be infected with an assortment of bacteria, viruses, and parasites; these tick-borne pathogens may be transmitted to humans who are bitten by an infected tick. Lyme disease is prevalent throughout Cape Cod and New England, and the presence of ticks infected with the Powassan virus has been confirmed. While either working or playing outdoors, make sure to take precautions in order to prevent yourself from being bitten by ticks and other insects. For more information on ticks please visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/ or the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension at http://www.capecodextension.org/ticks/.
What can I do to protect myself?
Whenever you are spending time outdoors, especially in areas that are known tick habitats, be sure to adhere to the following tips:
- Stay on the trail. Wandering off into the underbrush or leaf litter will increase your chances of exposure to a tick.
- Wear shoes, not sandals. Nymph stage deer ticks are the size of poppy seeds, and the larvae are even smaller; they can certainly get into sandals, and even through the fibers of some socks, so wearing treated clothing is important. Also, tucking your pant legs into your socks when hiking will minimize the amount of exposed skin.
- Treat yourself and your clothing with a recommended repellent: DEET on exposed skin, and permethrin for your clothing and footwear.
- After outdoor activities, do a tick check! Check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks. Place your clothing in the dryer for 20 minutes to kill any ticks you may have missed.
How safe is permethrin-treated clothing?
Permethrin is a chemical in the pyrethroid family which is frequently used to control insects both as an insect repellent and as a broad-spectrum insecticide; in fact, it is commonly used to treat head lice in children. Pyrethroids are synthetic esters derived from the naturally-occurring pyrethrin compounds that may be extracted from certain chrysanthemum flowers.
Here are some quick facts:
- Permethrin is over 2,250 times more toxic to ticks than humans; so just a little bit provides great protection safely.
- The EPA states "...There is reasonable certainty that Permethrin-treated clothing poses no harm to infants or children".
- Put directly on the skin, typically less than 1% of active ingredient is absorbed into the body; DEET can be absorbed at over 20 times that rate.
- Exposure risk of Permethrin-treated clothing to toddlers is 27 times below the EPA's Level of Concern (LOC).
- A 140-pound person would have no adverse health effects if exposed to 32 gms of permethrin/day.There is less than 1 gram of permethrin in an entire bottle of clothing treatment.
- A 5% cream (10 times the dose) is recommended to treat children and infants with mites called scabies.
Source: University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center, http://tickencounter.org/prevention/permethrin
What should I do if I am bitten by a tick?
- Use 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.
- We recommend sending the tick to be tested by the Laboratory of Medical Zoology at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. The report they provide is a valuable tool that can help you make informed decisions concerning your medical care. More information is available at www.tickreport.com
- Contact your medical provider.