Believe it or not, there was actually a small study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine back in the late 1980s claiming that nudists don’t get Lyme disease. Although no one has replicated the study, there are many reasons why a nudist might be less likely to get a tick bite. For one, nudists tend to avoid the brush habitat where there are deer ticks…poison ivy and greenbrier don’t go too well with certain body parts. Nudists may look at their skin or that of their fellow nudists frequently and find ticks easily. And, ticks tend to crawl around a lot on a body looking for a dark, clothing constricted place under which to attach. It could also be that nudists use more repellent (mosquito bites and certain body parts don’t mix either). Perhaps the Vineyard boards of health should advocate for town officials “turning the other cheek” to episodes of public nudity, particularly in the woods. Get rid of those “no nudity” admonitions on all the Land Bank and other trailhead signs!
Nude or clothed, it is tick season and you should try to prevent tick bites. Use repellents and treated clothing if you wear any. Visit the MV Tick Borne Disease Initiative website, sponsored by the Island-wide boards of health (www.mvboh.org) for tips on prevention.
Sam Telford is Professor of Infectious Disease and Global Health at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.