“Just last week, I saw a patient with an adult deer tick embedded in their lower back” said one of the Midcoast Lyme literate medical providers. “We removed the tick and sent it off to Tickreport.com for a full analysis of any pathogens. My patient was very shocked to discover a tick embedded in their back this time of year.”
I think many are of this same mindset, thinking that ticks either die off or are not a threat during the winter months. But there are many organizations that are still promoting the need for the use of prevention products and continued tick checks. Ticks are a year-round threat in endemic areas like Maine.
Tick Encounter in Rhode Island reports that blacklegged (deer) ticks are not killed by freezing temperatures, stating that even in the coldest regions of North America, these ticks can still be active on days when temperatures are above freezing (32 degrees) and they are not covered by snow. As I wrote in my last column, bringing in fire wood and allowing it to thaw, promotes tick movement in your home, putting your family and pets at great risk.
Some easy winter tips to protect your family and pets, even when the outdoors temps are frigid:
Wear tick repellent clothing that has been pre-treated with Permethrin (lasts through 70 washings) or buy Permethrin online or at the local hardware store and treat your own clothing (last through 7-10 washings)
When you come inside, toss your clothing in the dryer on HIGH HEAT for 10minutes. This will kill any ticks that may have hitched a ride inside.
Continue with year-round pet protection and treat their beds and blankets with Permethrin. Talk to your vet as there are many options orally, topically and pet apparel that has been pre-treated with Permethrin. Dog Not Gone, a Maine company, has some great vest and other apparel that has been pre-treated with Permethrin and that will last through 70 washes and will not come off on your pet when wet (like rain or snow). It only disintegrates through the washing agitation in the washing machine.
And as always, do your tick checks! It only takes seconds to do a quick check. The longer a tick is attached the greater the risk exposure to a tick-borne disease.
This information is going viral. Just two weeks ago, the Weather Network was warning people about winter tick activity and the need to continue using prevention products not only on yourself and your family but your pets.
The deer tick is capable of carrying more than just Lyme disease. Anaplasmosis and Babesia (a malaria-based tick-borne disease) are on the rise here in Maine and those diseases do not produce the classic bulls-eye rash. We need to stop thinking about ticks, Lyme disease and the bulls-eye rash as the best indicator of infection because less than 50 percent of all positive cases do not produce a rash. We need to start thinking about ticks and tick-borne disease and know the dangers that are in our communities and know how to protect ourselves, our families and our pets. We need to understand that we live in an endemic region and so our risk is much greater, we need know that symptoms can be sudden or delayed and quite varied. Not all patients will have the same symptoms or severity. We need to know that ticks can carry more than one tick-borne disease, complicating the symptoms, often times guiding our doctors down the wrong path with misdiagnosis.
If you have been bitten by a tick or have strange, unexplained symptoms, who you see matters. You want to see a medical provider that understands how the diseases can present and manifest. You want to see a medical provider that has experience diagnosing and treating not only acute but chronic tick-borne infections. You want to see a Lyme literate provider as this is your best chance at a full recovery, sooner rather than later. But most important, you need to know that no matter how long you’ve been sick, with the right provider and the right treatment protocol, full recovery is possible.
If this is you or someone you know, please know that we can help connect you to resources. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Save the date: Mark your calendars! On Friday April 26, we will be hosting our fifth annual Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education conference from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center. For more information, visit conference2019.mldse.org and keep checking back for updated information.
Paula is the president of the MLDSE, the co-chair of the Access to Care Services and Patient Support subcommittee of the federal HHS Tick-borne Disease Working Group, the Maine-partner of the national Lyme Disease Association, member of Maine’s CDC Vector-borne Workgroup and active in Maine’s Lyme legislation. You can reach her at email@example.com and visit her website www.mldse.org