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ticks

Cold freeze won't keep ticks from biting

Gorgeous fall weather brings temptations. Pumpkin pie cooling by the kitchen window. Outdoors, leaf-strewn mountain paths beckon. Canada geese honk and chatter in the clear twilight as they pass overhead on their way to the nearby lake.

The last thing we want to think about is Lyme disease. However, there is an increased chance of getting Lyme during winter, when we believe ticks don’t pose a threat.

I hope you’re feeling well enough to spend some time outdoors. Natural environments have an undisputed healing power, increasing relaxation and restoring a sense of balance in our minds and bodies. But if you do, take the necessary precautions. At least in Rhode Island,
ticks can survive even a cold New England freeze, according to Dr. Thomas Mather of the University of Rhode Island.

From WPRI News:
Ticks can survive throughout the entire winter, even if they are frozen in the ground for periods of time.

“They must produce some sort of antifreeze inside of themselves, because as soon as the ground thaws and they warm up again, they’re back out and biting,” said Mather.


When you go for a hike in the fresh fall air, stay in the middle of the path. Avoid grassy and wooded areas. Wear long socks and boots and tuck your pant legs in. Perform that routine tick check when you come inside. Pets who share our living space should routinely be inspected too. And bear in mind, wearing DEET does not guarantee protection from tick bites.
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Warm-weather ticks & Treatment strategy questioned

Surprisingly brisk bursts of wind scatter multi-colored leaves and shuttle herds of gray thunderheads across the sky. It’s Fall, arguably the most beautiful time of the year, at least in our nook of the SE. Still, when it comes to unwanted critters, awareness and prevention are the rule for venturing outdoors.

Warmer weather creates a haven for the tiny natural catastrophes we know as
ticks. In the Southeast, we may be advised that ticks don’t carry Lyme disease, but an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. A recent news clip from WXIA in Georgia attests to the rise in ticks, which may be due to the very warm weather much of the nation has endured over the course of 2012.

For prevention, the classic advice includes keeping on top of your pets’ tick and flea medications, and using caution outdoors. When you are outside, whether hiking, strolling through a neighborhood park, or preparing your garden for the season, don’t make yourself available for ticks. Start a fashion trend -- goodness knows it’ll keep the neighbors amused. Tuck your pants into the tops of your socks and wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to spot. Who says you can’t wear white after Labor Day?

Other prevention-strategies for the season: Make a tick-check a part of your post-outdoors routine. We can’t see our whole selves even in the mirror. Ask a family member to inspect the back of your head and your back. If they do find a tick -- have them remove it without damaging it (which can increase the risk of infection) and put it in a baggie, so it can be checked for the bacterial complex which causes Lyme and other diseases. Not all ticks carry the spirochete that causes Lyme.

We recommend sending it to
IGeneX Labs in Palo Alto, California. There are a few other labs around the country, which you can find through searching online.

Watch and wait? Or treat with doxy?
People who suspect that they’ve been bitten and infected by a tick have a couple of choices. One is to watch and wait. See your doctor, and be ready to treat symptoms aggressively if they arise. Symptoms can be extremely subtle, and they are mightily varied depending on your particular immune system response, general state of health, age and many other factors.

The other option is to begin antibiotic treatment immediately, with the most common drug used for Lyme, doxycycline. This approach, which is apparently based on only one case study, deserves scrutiny, according to ILADS doctor Elizabeth Maloney, who has
another view on the matter.

In her written testimony, she questions whether this now commonly-recommended prophylaxis strategy is sufficient to treat the borrelia infection. She states that it may indeed prevent the patient from getting the treatment they need, by hiding the symptoms of Lyme. Watching and waiting may be the wisest choice.



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Babesiosis

Ticks! How do I hate them? Let me count the ways.

Babesiosis is known as a co-infection frequently accompanying Lyme. But it is no mere side-kick. The latest threat from ticks is not a new disease, but cases seem to be on the rise especially in the northeastern US. Babesiosis is described as a malaria-like illness which can be life-threatening in some people. It is caused by the parasite babesea microti, which invades and destroys the body's red blood cells.

Unlike Lyme disease, Babesiosis will not present with a
bullseye rash. Symptoms from the outset are fever, sweats, fatigue, bad headaches and malaise, or a general feeling of un-wellness. 

People who are at greatest risk of fatality from Babesiosis:
• are on immuno-suppresant drugs
• lack a spleen
• on chemotherapy
• infants & elderly


Take precautions to prevent exposure to ticks, which can hang out for days on the tips of grasses, and hitch a ride on chipmunks and other rodents if there are no deer around.

In the summertime,
ticks are in the nymph stage, at their tiniest. Just to up the ante of the risk, many of us spend more time outdoors enjoying the warm weather and longer days. This means that when you come inside, tick-check time is even more important than ever. Get the kids in the act. Place a full-length mirror in the foyer and establish a habit of helping each other search for uninvited critters.

Be well, for goodness sake!

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Video--how to repel ticks

The harvest moon is rising outside my office window at this moment. It's full and bright and lovely. I noticed our neighbor's garden is burgeoning with ripe green peppers and orange squashes that need to be picked and enjoyed. Gardening and me don't exactly fit very well anymore -- not since Lyme revised my priorities. I leave it up to braver folks than I, who aren't as paranoid of tiny ticks. However, I still love the idea of gardening, and I'm always interested in discovering ways to do it safely.

How to Repel Ticks -- powered by eHow.com

This eHow video, posted by a gardener, explains the basics about how to protect yourself and your kids from ticks. She recommends the usual precautions, such as covering up head to toe with multiple layers of clothing. Then she mentions something I hadn't heard before. She suggests that on your hands and face, and any other body parts that aren't covered by clothing, you put on oil.

Her reasoning is that although the ticks are nearly impossible to repel once they've gotten onto your skin, they don't like oil because it causes them to slip, or reduces their success at sinking their sharp teeth into your skin. She says any kind of oil will do -- olive oil, lavender oil, baby oil, etc. She mentions DEET, as well, for its effectiveness as a tick repellent.

She also recommends putting your clothing into a hot dryer as soon as you come in from the garden, woods, forest, or wherever you may have been exposed to ticks. She claims that if you put your clothes into the washing machine, you risk setting them loose in the house. However, the hot temperature of the dryer should kill them.

I think I need to ask Dr Eva Sapi or some of our other Lyme experts about these claims before I believe them wholeheartedly. In our last interview, Dr Sapi told us that the biology graduate students in her University of New Haven Lyme research program couldn't even keep the ticks away using DEET, as they went hiking in the forest for a tick-gathering field trip.

What do you think? Have you ever used this oil trick? Is it effective?
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Neem oil and ticks

Q: Will neem oil spray kill the ticks on my dog?

A: No, it's not likely. Mature ticks are not usually affected by neem. However, neem oil has been reported to cause female ticks to lay sterile eggs. In addition, neem oil repels ticks. Use it to reduce Sparky's chances of being bitten in the future. Regularly grooming, shampooing and then spraying your dog with neem oil may greatly improve the problem of ticks.

Clean and spray your pet's bedding with neem oil too. Protecting you and your family from tick bites means thinking about all the opportunities the little critters have to encroach on your living space. Clean and spray all the spaces where your pets hang out.

Think of this as a long-term solution, however, and not an immediate fix. Be wary of ads that promise results. Neem oil has been shown to be effective only with certain types of ticks, and cattle and other livestock have been tested more than dogs and cats.

Dogs and kitties (parrots and ferrets) add immeasurable love to our lives. Unavoidably, we take our chances with the dangers they may carry when they run freely outdoors and in, sleep in our beds and lounge on our sofas. Keep an eye on your outdoor pet, making regular tick checks a part of routine grooming. If you've found ticks on your pet, please take them to see your vet right away. Our cats and dogs are vulnerable to Lyme and related tick-borne diseases. The vets I've consulted with say there is often a good chance for recovery, especially if the animal is treated with antibiotics as soon after infection as possible.
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Educate yourself about ticks

Summertime is so inviting, the trails around my house are shady, green and cool. Summer is also time to pay close attention to the small dangers in the woods and grassy fields. If you hike, camp or hang out in the great outdoors, or know anyone who does, please pass on to this information about ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Everything you always wanted to know about ticks (but were too chicken to ask) is included in this handbook, the new revised edition prepared by Kirby C. Stafford III, PhD Vice Director, Chief Entomologist of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. It's an 84-page booklet that you can download as a PDF.

Tick Management Handbook
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How to hike & garden: Tick-free

Ticks are incredibly resilient critters. They have lasted for millenia due to their wily survival tactics. We're not required to admire them for this, however, we should be as determined in our efforts to avoid them as they are persistent in going after their goals--namely, a warm meal and a ride.

How do you avoid ticks? In particular, how do you avoid them in tick havens such as the US NE region, and pretty much anywhere that constitutes wilderness (including the parking lot at work, if there are hedges, grasses, trees or bushes nearby).

Are you like me? Since being struck down by Lyme and making the long, slow climb back to health, I've really lost my taste for hiking and gardening, activities that were a constant of my pre-Lyme life. However, I don't want to be afraid of the outdoors, and I know you don't either, especially this time of the year when the air smells like flowers and tulips are blooming in the colors of little girls' Easter dresses.

Taking precautions on a hike can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. You may want to stop short of duct-taping yourself head to toe, as the mother does to her son in the new movie, Lymelife. Wear white or light colors so ticks can be seen easily and eliminated a.s.a.p. Use a strong repellent. Tuck your socks into your pant, and check yourself (and the kids) when you get home.

Gardening, for me, has moved indoors. Growing plants is just too fun to give up altogether. On walks through my neighborhood I admire the results of other people's green thumbs, but here at home I get great satisfaction from growing sprouts. Not only do you get quick results, you can save money on the store-bought varieties, and guarantee freshness. Broccoli and clover are the house favorites.

So here are the main points: Wear white. Tuck your pants into your socks. Perform tick checks thoroughly after you've spent time outdoors. Grow sprouts. Don't be afraid of the big bad tick. Just outsmart it with your own wiles and tactics.

Happy spring!
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Lyme disease in dogs

Are you and your dog both at risk for Lyme? It's terrible to think so, yet those energizing hikes through the forest that you and your canine pal adore may be putting you at a greater risk for infection. Even if you're not a frequent hiker, you know how man's best friend loves to rummage through the bushes around the edge of the yard and snuffle through piles of leaves. Hedges and leaf piles are prime hiding spots for ticks.

Lyme is endemic in the northeastern US, and increasing incidences of the illness are being reported in northern California and the Pacific northwest. Dogs living in other parts of the country may be at less of a risk for exposure. But before you allow yourself to believe your dog is out of the woods (so to speak), bear in mind that Lyme infection has been reported in every state.

Lyme in dogs manifests differently than in humans. When bitten by an infected tick, 30 - 50% of people will develop a skin rash and flu-like symptoms. However, dogs are not likely to develop symptoms for many weeks or months. Your dog might exhibit signs of arthritis from painful joint inflammation, or he might run a fever. Your veterinarian can prescribe a course of antibiotics such as doxycycline or Amoxicillin, which many dogs respond well to. As in humans, all the bacteria may not be killed with this course. Long term or chronic Lyme may or may not be a problem for our beloved buddies.

  • According to an article by Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP Educational Director of VeterinaryPartner.com, dogs do not tend to develop neurologic or heart issues.
  • However, kidney disease may occur in response to stimulation by latent pathogens over a long period of time.

Preventing Lyme infection might be possible with the use of powerful tick repellents and collars. However, even if you use these agents you should take the time to check your dog daily for ticks whenever you think there has been exposure. There is no hard evidence to prove that a tick must be attached for 48 hours before it can spew its Lyme bacteria into the animal on which it's feeding. If the tick is disturbed while feeding, it may dump its toxins into the bloodstream of the host animal.

  • If you find a tick on your pet, grasp the tick firmly but gently with a tweezers and pull it straight out without twisting or turning it.
  • Never suffocate the tick by putting anything on it, such as Vaseline or soap. Doing so may cause it to unload its bacteria before you remove it.


The bad news is that diagnosing Lyme disease in dogs is as tricky as it is for humans. Spirochetes are notorious for being able to hide masterfully from the host's immune system. Therefore, detecting antibodies to the Lyme bacteria is nearly impossible. If you and your vet suspect that your furry buddy might have Lyme, the good news is that a 2 - 4 week course of antibiotics should bring your pet relief from symptoms quickly, within 48 hours.
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Guineafowl eat ticks

In 1992 in New York, Christie Brinkley was concerned about her daughter playing outside in what was known to be an area where tick numbers were high. So she enlisted the aid of her congressman, who initiated a commissioned study to investigate the effectiveness of Guineafowl as tick controllers. Guineafowl, originally from Africa, are feathery foragers with an unusual cry that sounds like "buckwheat, buckwheat!" These critters' diet includes about 90% arthopods, which means they eat ticks. The Duffy study illustrated that Guineafowl could indeed play a significant part in keeping tick numbers down.

Raising Guineafowl takes an effort, but it may be an option if your environment permits. The birds prefer to range throughout an open area, not woodsy, of about three to five acres. They make a loud noise when they're threatened by predators such as hawks overhead or the neighbors' dogs, and your local zoning codes must allow for them.

Guineafowl, like watchdogs, are good at raising an alarm when strangers approach, yet unlike dogs they will not attack. They will eat snakes and other noxious insects besides ticks, such as spiders and mites. If your circumstances allow and if you like the idea of controlling ticks through enlisting the aid of a flock of friendly little birds, Guineafowl can be an important weapon in the battle against Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Causes of Lyme disease other than tick- born?
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Ticks love warm winters

Unusually warm winters make it easy for ticks and mosquitoes to survive. Although this is not generally the time you would think about protecting your dog or cat from ticks, these creatures can appear during the winter in surprising locales. If your local climate is warmer than usual for the beginning of January, you might consider treating your pets with a tick repellant. Be sure to check your pet's paws and coat thoroughly, lest she or he bring any of the little hitchhiking critters into the house.

If you allow your pet to sleep on your bed, take extra measures to keep them from introducing any tiny friends. Ticks can be as small as a piece of ground black pepper. They are extremely difficult to detect. It's better to apply tick repellant to your pet to be on the safe side. Check with your local pet supply store or veteranarian for an insecticide that is safe enough for your furry pal.
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Expiration dates count.

Expiration dates count. Be aware of outdated information on Lyme disease research websites. It's astonishing to me how many doctors' and medical authorities' websites are still confidently proclaiming that Lyme disease can only be spread by ticks. I've only been researching this disease for a little over a year but it appears clear that ticks alone are not responsible for the epidemic of Lyme disease. The Lyme-literate doctors I've spoken with are convinced that only a small percentage of cases of Lyme are spread by ticks. There seems to be a lot of evidence to suggest that all blood-sucking insects are capable of carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme. One scientist I interviewed who researches Lyme stated that every single mosquito she had tested, from California to Florida, tested positive with the bacteria.

When searching online for good information on Lyme, it's crucial to keep in mind that medical research is dynamic and ongoing. This disease is a highly underrated epidemic, and the physicians who test their patients for it and diagnose it are not always able to publish about their results immediately. Old and out-of-date information about this disease seems to be prevalent on the web. Yet cutting edge information is available for those who are careful to critically screen the quality of information they find.

Screening out noisy rubble and finding good information about Lyme is like panning for gold. Many websites are helpful, some more than others. Some websites were once relevant, but now they're outdated. Look for the most updated discoveries to find what you need to know. This evening, I was reading through the site of a popular health advocate I once met and whose products I have used, to my great satisfaction. Her website, however, was stacked with information about Lyme disease that dates back to 1996. Over just the past year or two, the discoveries about new, successful treatments for Lyme are hopeful and deeply encouraging, but a person reading this health advocate's site would never get that impression. So watch the expiration date on the information you take to heart. Lyme patients find out quickly that it is to their advantage to get quality and timely research.
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