Wow, you guys had a LOT of great stuff to say about ticks. I cannot do it justice, but here are a few further reader tips on this.
- Many people pointed out that although I was a little laser-focused on Lyme Disease. This is the most common tick-borne illness in the US but, of course, ticks can spread other illnesses which are more common outside of New England. Of particular note is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but also alpha-gal syndrome, certain kinds of encephalitis, etc. The general advice of check for ticks, take them off if you find them, save them and so on all holds. But some of the exact timing and treatment varies depending on your risks.
- Permethrin! Many people wrote to point out that treating your clothes with permethrin is a highly effective tick-avoidance method. Wirecutter has a good review of this topic here. Basically, the idea is to treat your clothes with this spray (most notably your socks and shoes) or buy pre-treated clothing. Ticks are repelled but, also, if they try to attach, they just die. Safety data on outdoor workers is very good, and this really does seem to work. Thank you to everyone who wrote in with this! I bought some spray immediately.
- If you find a tick you can send it to be tested for Lyme or other diseases (many places have labs; here is an example). There was some disagreement as to the usefulness of this. It takes time so it is unlikely you’d have results back before you needed to choose about prophylactic antibiotics. And if you didn’t use them and the tick did have evidence of disease, you’d still need to wait and see if the victim got sick. The main value is if the tick tests negative for disease, you can rest easier.
- If you have dogs, they should be vaccinated for Lyme.
- Most importantly, I missed the opportunity to link to the Brad Paisley song, “Ticks”. I am ashamed.