Tick tips

The Island’s least favorite seasonal residents are back in town

—Stacey Rupolo

As we all know, Martha’s Vineyard has a tick problem, and it’s not going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s possible it’s getting worse, according to Sam Telford, an epidemiologist who studies tick-borne illnesses in Massachusetts.

“I found one when I was on Cape about a week ago,” Mr. Telford said in an interview with The Times in early May, “The season has started and when people go out they need to take caution.”

Since we Islanders tend to be outdoorsy types, we’re at a higher risk for being bit and picking up diseases. Going outside without taking tick precautions is like being on the beach without sunscreen— it’s just not smart. The following tips from the Martha’s Vineyard Board of Health website (mvboh.org/tbi) can help keep families and pets tick-free this season. Sure, maybe you know all this, but isn’t it nice to have them all in one clip-and-save spot?

  • Check yourself often. Especially under the arms, around the ears, behind the knees, between legs, around the waist and in hair.
  • Wear light colored clothing. It makes ticks easier to spot while they’re still crawling around.
  • Use repellants that contain 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing.
  • Use repellants such as Permetherin on clothing. It lasts up to 70 washings.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass. But who doesn’t love a good Landbank Trail? Just be sure to pick a clear, visible path, and stick to the center of it.
  • Wear long pants and long shirts. It’ll be hot, but 102-degree fevers are hotter.
  • Bathe or shower when you get home. It’ll wash away the paranoia, at the very least.
  • Check pets and check gear. Ticks are always looking for a free ride into your home.
  • Tumble clothes on high for an hour. Ticks don’t like heat and the dryer’ll finish them off once and for all.
  • Pay attention to unexplainable fevers. It could be Lyme, and catching it early makes all the difference.

For kids

  • Check them often — Kids ages 2-17 are at the highest risk.
  • Keep away from stone walls— It’s where ticks like to hang.
  • Educate— Landbank trails and beaches often have caution signs posted in the parking lot. Take a minute to read these over with your kids. The more they know, the better.

For dogs

  • Check them often — their ears, eyes and muzzles are target spots.
  • Use tick prevention products — Frontline, Advantix, etc.

For yards

  • Keep the lawn mowed.
  • Remove extra brush, trash and leaf litter.
  • Keep wood stacked neatly in dry areas.
  • Keep ground under bird feeders clean.
  • Put wood chips down as a barrier between the lawn and woods.

According to the MV Board of Health, when removing attached ticks, use thin-tipped tweezers and grasp it as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull the tick straight up, without twisting or jerking, so that the mouthparts stay intact and the entire tick comes off. Wash or disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol or iodine scrub. If you remove the tick within the first 24 hours, you greatly reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease.

For more information, please visit the MV Board of Health website at mvboh.org/tbi.