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Tick-ocalypse Now! COVID increases tick hazards.

by Al Lewis

While COVID has pushed ticks off the front page of summer hazards, no one told the ticks. They're tanned, rested and ready.

Further, your employees aren’t at work, aren’t commuting, and aren’t generally congregating in indoor venues. That leaves one other place outside the home that they could be, which is: outside the home. Hence more targets for the ticks.

It's also possible that our mental energy spent preventing COVID reduces our share-of-mind for tickborne illness prevention.

Most importantly, tickborne illness symptoms can mimic COVID symptoms. If you get flu-like symptoms in the summer, and test negative for COVID, tickborne disease could be the culprit.

What follows is last summer's Six Things to Know about Ticks. All equally relevant this summer, with even greater viligance required in the age of COVID.


1. Prevention works best

This is fairly self-evident for anyone who lives in tick-infested areas, but folks who are vacationing may not know the drill, so here goes:

  • Stick to the trails.

  • Avoid rubbing up against plants.

  • Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks. Not much of a fashion statement, but neither is a bullseye rash.

  • Our friend on the right is wearing dark clothing, which seems to attract fewer ticks.

  • Launder clothes after you hike. Dark clothing may attract fewer ticks, but they are harder to spot. The spin cycle will catch any ticks you missed.

We rarely advise actions that require spending noticeable sums of money, but this may be an exception. Clothing claiming to prevent tick bites may actually work, but only well enough to be a complement, not a substitute, for the prevention techniques above.


2. Secondary prevention works second-best

Once or even twice a day in high season (which this is), do a check-for-ticks drill. Check your extremities (including between your toes) and your trunk. We can’t tell you exactly else to check without losing our coveted G-rating, but, yes, check there too. Use a flashlight and a magnifying glass because the ticks that carry the most diseases are the small ones – the deer ticks.


3. There is a right and wrong way(s) to remove a tick

Urban legends abound here. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t smother them with Vaseline. Another popular idea is burning them off. However, as it turns out, ticks are not an exception to the general rule that very few of life’s problems can be solved by holding a match against your skin. Nor can you use a regular tweezers. That might squeeze blood back into your body. Use a tweezers specifically designed to remove ticks from underneath, like this: