When it comes to viral topics, tick talks certainly should be top of the list. Yes, TICK talks! Why? Because in 2020 alone (and remember, we were staying inside and sheltering in place that year), there were 1,287 reported cases of Lyme Disease in Vermont, according to the Vermont Department of Health website. They note that each year the disease is steadily increasing and where does Lyme come from: TICKS! Talking about ticks helps to raise awareness while educating ourselves and others so we can prevent tick bites and hopefully reduce our risk of this tick-borne illness.

What are ticks? They are small “arachnids,” so yes, they look a little bit like a spider, but they have claws almost like a crab! They feed on blood that they get from mammals, birds, and even sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Here in Vermont, ticks have become more prevalent for a variety of reasons and have brought with them a surplus of not only Lyme disease but even, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. (According to www.healthvermont.gov) The most common ticks we see in our region are the black-legged ticks (sometimes referred to as “deer ticks”), dog ticks and the “lone-star” tick. The Mayo Clinic says that it’s the deer ticks we really want to watch out for! (www.mayoclinic.org). This is the one with the parasites, bacteria and the above-mentioned diseases we are seeing on the rise.

What should you talk about when it comes to ticks? PREVENTION! Prevention is always key to most things! The longer you can ward off any type of stress, illness or even tick, the better! The good news about ticks is there are key strategies we can all use to reduce the risk of getting the bite. We’re choosing our top five Tick Talk Prevention Topics from UVM’s list on their website, Ticks | Environmental Health and Safety | The University of Vermont (uvm.edu)

Prevention Strategies

1. Dress For Success: When in doubt, if you will be outdoors, you should dress as though you will encounter ticks! Dressing with long sleeves, pants tucked into socks and wearing closed toed shoes is a great first line of defense while outside.

2. Repel with A Smell: Applying EPA-approved insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin can help repel ticks. Some will also suggest essential oils, and while that’s not on the UVM website, you can make your choice, but DEET has been shown to be effective with ticks.

3. Tick Checks: Whenever you, your kids or pets are outside, you must check for ticks. This is just something we need to start making a part of our daily practice! Just as you wash your hands after using the restroom (RIGHT?) you need to do tick checks after being outside. Start from the bottom up!

4. Keep It Short: Yes, short grass can look a little dead and some people love having a big field in their backyards, but the taller the grass, the more ticks could be hiding! Keep your grass shorter and there’s fewer places for the ticks to live!

5. Act Quickly: If you think you have a tick bite, you must act quickly. If you see a tick, you can use a remover (known as a tick tool or tick key) to remove it. You want to remove the whole tick. However sometimes we don’t see them, we get a rash or something that looks like a bullseye, so don’t wait. Just call your primary care physician and ask for advice or visit the walk-in clinic for help. Many of these tick-borne illnesses do best with immediate support.

Tick talks are interesting. You will come across those who know a ton about ticks, have seen them and maybe even can share about treating a bite. Others will have never seen one or maybe have no idea that even here in the NEK ticks are a threat to our health. The more we talk about how we can safeguard our health, the more we can help to grow the health and wellness of our neighbors and community too! That is why we are hosting a tick talk!

Yes, you are invited to a TICK TALK! Wednesday, June 12th at 10:45 am at The Wellness Center. (1734 Crawford Farm Road, Newport, 05855). Our friends Nickey and Becky from the Vermont Department of Health will be on site to talk about prevention and offer tools to help keep us all safe! This free event is open to everyone! Come join us next week for a TICK TALK!