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Be Wary of Ticks as Temperatures Rise

By Taylor Smith 

Summertime in New Jersey is cause for celebration, and the warmer temperatures and bucolic surroundings encourage many residents to venture outdoors. The Mercer and Hunterdon county areas are home to state parks, meadows, fields, untouched forests, and a vast trail system tracing the Delaware River. However, one thing to be conscious of is the plethora of ticks. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 300,000 people get diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the United States. While the vast majority of tick bites do not result in chronic illness, Lyme disease is a real threat that, when left untreated, can result in arthritis, joint pain, chronic fatigue, brain fog, nerve pain, and heart palpitations. 

Deer ticks are the most common transmitters of Lyme disease. The New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University in New Brunswick indicates that deer ticks are also referred to as blacklegged ticks. If you do find a tick on your body, the first step is to remove it as quickly as possible. The longer a tick goes unnoticed once attached to your body, the greater the risk for infection.

In terms of removal, a pair of tweezers works best. Use the tweezers to grab the tick as close to your skin as possible, pulling straight up. Your skin will pull up as the tick detaches. You should then swab the tick bite with rubbing alcohol. Keep in mind the date and location of the bite, and continue to monitor the site over the next few weeks. If the tell-tale bull’s-eye rash develops, it’s important to contact your doctor for a Lyme test. Not all patients will develop a rash. If you notice the onset of flu-like symptoms, you should still be tested for Lyme. 

If you are spending time in a possible tick area, it’s beneficial to wear long sleeves, socks that cover your ankles, and pants. Ticks will be more visible on light-colored clothing. Repellents that contain DEET also help to deter ticks.

Dog owners should take extra precaution in keeping ticks away. Dogs can be treated once a month with preventative, veterinary-approved brands such as Frontline or NexGard, a chewable tablet. If you have more than one dog, it’s important that you treat all the dogs at the same time. Tick collars are mainly only useful for preventing tick bites around a dog’s neck. Shampoo that contains medicated ingredients will usually kill ticks upon contact. If you do take your dog for a walk through a forest or long grass, it’s important to do a full-body tick check. Before treating a pet with any medicine, owners should consult their veternarian to ensure that the animal is getting the correct treatment for its weight and size. Lastly, the CDC’s website highlights “hot spots” on your pet where ticks tend to gravitate: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_pets.html.