Tick Tock: May is Tick Awareness Month

Maine Tick Alert poster contest winner, grades 4-5, Natasha McDonald

Getting outdoors in spring is wonderful after winter snow and cold, but remember to prepare for ticks. Ticks were first observed in Maine in late February/early March this year.

Spring ticks are usually adults that overwintered, whereas early summer ticks are smaller (and harder to notice) nymphs. These nymphs are responsible for most of Maine’s Lyme disease.

The easiest way to avoid tickborne diseases is prevention. This May, please remember to: 1) Use caution in areas where ticks may be found; 2) Wear light-colored clothing that covers arms and legs – to make seeing ticks easier; 3) Use an EPA approved repellent such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus; 4) Perform tick checks on yourself and pets daily and after any outdoor activity.

Take a shower after exposure to a tick habitat. This is a great opportunity to do a tick check and may wash off any unattached ticks.

The Lyme disease bacterium is passed through the bite of an infected deer tick. For transmission to occur, the deer tick must be attached for 24-48 hours. Check for ticks EVERY DAY to ensure they aren’t attached for over 24 hours. 

If you find an embedded deer tick on you, for $15 you can mail it to Maine’s Tick Lab and learn whether it carries any of the bacteria that can make you sick. If you’re not sure whether it’s a deer tick, you can send it to the Tick Lab for identification, free of charge.

If you’re bitten by a tick or spend a lot of time outdoors, watch for symptoms for up to 30 days after exposure. Call your health care provider if symptoms develop. The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a skin rash. This is better known as the “bull’s-eye” rash. The circular bull’s eye rash usually appears 3-30 days after the tick bite and can show up at the bite site or anywhere else on the body. Other symptoms include fever, headache, and joint or muscle pain. Lyme disease is treatable, and most people recover fully, especially when treated early.

More information about Lyme disease and ticks can be found here. Stay safe while you enjoy the outdoors!