Monday, May 14, 2012

For Safety's Sake #10: Are you itching to get outdoors?

When I was in grade school I was intrigued, and more than a little incredulous, about a story I read in a science book postulating that at some time in the future the world would be taken over by insects.  I am beginning to see the possibilities of it.

In the past two weeks I have had to have two ticks removed at a local clinic and am currently on antibiotics which make me violently ill.

This is a situation that I would like you to avoid, if possible.

We’ve all read the articles and heard the warnings. We know about the tiny red deer tick and the bull’s eye rash. Having that knowledge still isn’t going to save us entirely from the problem.

The mild winter didn’t succeed in killing off the ticks and many other vermin that typically annoy us during the warmer months, and let me attest to the fact that you don’t have to be crawling around on your belly in the underbrush to attract the little devils.

The first one my husband generously shared with me after he had been working in the yard all day and I had remained safely inside. Note to self: “ Never thank a man for doing yard work prior to his being carefully examined for foreign creatures, showering and changing clothes.”

The second one I got while taking ten minutes to put up a sign in a yard. No high grass or leaf litter. Just me, the sign, and the crawlies.

I couldn’t believe it. I was outraged. It wasn’t fair!

So, what can we do about it? Do we just throw up our hands and surrender? I’m not ready to do that.

There are multitudes of products on the market as well as old remedies handed down for generations. I just saw a display in a grocery store today that held no fewer than 23 types of sprays, creams, mists, lotions, foggers, and bracelets for repelling the onslaught.

If you have a tried and true method, by all means, this is the year to use it.

Here’s what you must do. Put something on your shoes, socks, pant legs, arms, any part of you or your clothing that might brush up against grass, trees and leaf litter. I’ve heard it said that oak leaves are the worst for hiding the little nasties. Who knows?

One physician suggested a product that contains a certain chemical, but when my husband purchased it there was a cautionary note that it is not to be used on humans. Huh? My advice is to read all labels carefully and follow the directions. This may take a magnifying glass. I don’t know about you, but to me, print seems to be getting smaller all the time.

At any rate, protect yourself the best you can. Check yourself and/or have a buddy check you as soon as practicable. Check again before and after a shower. Wash and dry your clothes at the hottest temperatures possible for the fabric. Do not place your clothes in the hamper or even lay them on the floor after you think you may have been exposed. Put them directly into the washer, then immediately into the dryer when the cycle is finished.

Removal of the tick from your body can be tricky. If someone has a steady hand and the appropriate tool for doing so; it can be done by a lay person, but things being what they are, I’d let a professional do the removing so that it can be determined if it has been completely detached, then identified, and a proper course of treatment prescribed, if necessary. Interestingly enough, common thought among medical folks these days is that if the head of the tick cannot be removed, disgusting as it sounds, it’s better to let your body absorb it than to do unnecessary cutting to get it out.

Contrary to some provincial wisdom, you do not build up a resistance to ticks and our other BFFs--black flies and mosquitoes. These little nuisances are the ones who are building up barriers against us and to our repellents.

Carry your protection in your car at all times, along with the sunscreen and other items we’ve discussed previously.

This is serious business. Lyme disease can take a long time to develop and can be difficult to diagnose. If there is a chance that the tick might have carried the virus you can be treated early, easily and preventatively with antibiotics (even though that might not be an altogether pleasant experience) and you should be fine, but try to protect yourself beforehand, if you can.

You see--you’re itching right now. Aren’t you?

Submitted by Mary Kuykendall. Mary is a REALTOR in Bangor, Maine, and the Greater Bangor Association's 2011 REALTOR of the Year.  All opinions belong to the author.

1 comment:

Martha Laitin, Prudential Northeast Properties said...

I have spent hours researching the deer tick situation in Maine and have prepared a 15 minute talk on the subject with hand-outs and a take-home identification guide. I also have the form to use if you want the tick you remove from yourself tested at a lab to see if it was one of the 50% of all deer ticks that carry Lyme Disease. If your office is interested in having me come to an office meeting in the mid-coastal area, please get in touch.

I must also say, that with all my knowledge and precautions, I have had 3 deer ticks removed from me so far this spring and have had a preventive course of antibiotics. It can happen to any of us.