I love to hike in the woods and sand dunes near my cottage, which is near Lake Huron. The trouble is that the woods and grasses in these areas are wrought with perennial reed grasses, such as Phragmites, which can provide shelter for high populations of black-legged deer ticks (or Ixodes scapularis), the type of tick that transmits Lyme disease.
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Of course, after a walk in the woods, I make a point of doing a full body check to ensure I’m not carrying home one of these unwelcome visitors. I’ve never found one on my person, but the question remains, what should I do if I ever find a tick on my body?
1. Ticks and the Risk of Lyme Disease Transmission
According to Dr. Thomas Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center, finding a tick any time of year is scary, because you don’t know what the insect is carrying. Dr. Mather explains that we should be wary of ticks during all seasons. Freezing temperatures don’t deter the transmission of Lyme disease through deer ticks. Keep in mind that approximately 50-percent of adult female ticks can be carrying Lyme disease.
Sure, they may be slower moving in winter temperatures, but once the snow melts, they become mobile again in a matter of days. Dr. Anne Bass, a physician who specializes in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, Lyme disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, and inflammatory eye disease at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery, also warns that ticks in the nymph stage (spring) can be as small as a poppyseed, thus easy to miss in a full body check. However, researchers from the University of Rhode Island estimate that roughly 20-percent of tick nymphs are infected with Lyme disease.