10 Tips For Avoiding Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

Monday, March 6, 2017

Spring is coming. Once the ground temps reach 45 degrees, deer ticks (they're really called black legged ticks and are actually primarily transmitted by the white footed mouse) will be out and about which means it's officially Lyme disease season.

According to some local experts, 2017 is shaping up to be an epic year for Lyme disease infections. So what can you do to avoid the coming plague?

1. Do a daily tick check on yourself and your family. Remove all clothing and carefully check for tiny black dots. Ticks are programmed to crawl up - towards your head - they love to feed on the thin, blood rich skin there so make sure to check behind your ears, at your hair line, the nape of your neck, etc., very carefully. But ticks can be anywhere - they may decide just to dig in at one of the other warm spots on your body - armpit, crotch, back of knee, etc.

Keep in mind that ticks come in many different sizes depending on where they are in their life cycle. Deer ticks in the nymphal stage are so small that they can be extremely hard to see - even when you're looking right at one, it can be hard to tell for sure if it's really a thing. So far, in my experience, it is often really a thing, unfortunately.


2. If you find a tick, remove it ASAP! The longer it's biting you, the greater the chance that it will transmit disease. Keep in mind that there's only one right way to remove a tick and a whole lot of wrong ways. Think of the tick as a potentially disease-filled bag. You do not want to squeeze that bag of yucky bacteria into your body through the tick's bite.

Here's what you do:
  • Using pointy tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. 
  • Gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion. If the tick's mouthparts do not come out with the rest of the tick, don't panic. The mouthparts, alone, can't transmit disease. You can either pick them out like you would a splinter or just leave them there and they'll eventually fall out on their own. 
  • Wash the area thoroughly with disinfectant and then apply antibacterial ointment. 
  • Save the tick to identify and to potentially send away for testing. I usually stick them to a piece of tape, pop them in a Ziploc and label it with the date in case I decide to send it for testing. 
  • If you do want to get the tick tested, you can mail it to Igenex Lab in California or to the LMZ at UMASS Amherst ($50 per tick).  
  • Watch the area closely for up to a month for signs of a rash that is at least 2 inches in diameter and probably will spread considerably (the tick bite may be red and irritated but a tiny red spot does not mean you have Lyme disease.) If you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms, go see a doctor right away and get on a two week course of antibiotics. Keep in mind that testing for Lyme disease is notoriously unreliable so if you get the rash and/or other symptoms with a tick bite, just get treated. 
  • You should also insist on being tested for the co-infections that are often transmitted along with Lyme -- babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis are the most common co-infections and will require different treatment from the antibiotics that are used to treat Lyme!
Here's what you DON'T do:
  • Touch the tick with your bare hands. 
  • Squeeze the body of the tick. 
  • Put alcohol, nail polish remover or Vaseline on the tick. 
  • Put a hot match or cigarette on the tick in an effort to make it "back out." 
Not only do these things not help but they also increase the likelihood that the tick will end up transmitting Lyme disease to you.

3. Avoid contact with grasses, leaf litter, branches - basically, the entire frikkin' outdoors.

4. If you do dare to venture out of doors, wear light-colored, long pants and shirts, and tuck the pants into your socks. I will warn you that this is not a super sexy look (see below) but safety first... If you spend a lot of time mucking about outdoors, you may want to get a pair of high-cut Mucks or Bogs but still tuck your socks into your pants inside them.


5. Consider using insect repellent. I have mixed feelings about this but will sometimes spray my outdoor work clothes and boots with this Permethrin spray when I'm specifically going out to pull up barberry bushes or rake leaves. You spray it once and it lasts quite a long time - even through the wash - which is a little scary.

And we have a bottle of this 20% Picaridin spray that we occasionally use. Again, I have mixed feelings about it all but you should make up your own mind about whether you want to use it or not. You can read more about it on Consumer Reports and on the Connecticut (the original home of Lyme disease) government fact sheet.

6. Reduce tick-friendly (a.k.a mouse-friendly) habitats near your home and widen the borders between the areas you use and any woodlands or meadows. That means keeping things dry, letting lots of light in, and limiting vegetation and stone walls or piles of brush where mice like to hide.
  • Keep your grass mowed. 
  • Remove any leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn. 
  • Restrict the use of groundcovers like pachysandra in areas frequented by family and roaming pets. 
  • Remove brush and leaves around stonewalls and wood piles. 
  • Discourage rodent activity. Clean up and seal stonewalls and small openings around the home and move firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house. 
  • Keep dogs and cats out of the woods to reduce ticks brought into the home. 
  • Put up a deer fence. 
  • Move kid's swing sets and sand boxes away from the woodland edge and place them on a wood chip or mulch type foundation. 
  • Trim tree branches and shrubs around the lawn edge to let in more sunlight. 
  • Create a 3-foot or wider wood chip, mulch, or gravel border between lawn and woods or stonewalls. Most tree companies will deliver wood chips for free as will many municipalities so they can be a very affordable option. We get a couple loads a year. 
  • Widen woodland trails to avoid brushing against branches and leaves.
7. Get rid of Japanese barberry plants! These thorny plants are deer mouse magnets that tend to serve as nurseries for black legged tickets. But you have to dig them out, roots and all or they will just sprout up again with renewed vigor. We use a digging bar, a pair of long-handled Fiskar loppers as well as a flame weeder to try to control the rampant barberry on our nine-acre property. I also wear a pair of long gloves meant for pruning roses since the thorns are pretty vicious - I learned that the hard way :) Read my post on this for more information.

Japanese Barberry by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

8. Scatter "Tick Tubes" around your property. Again, you have to be comfortable using an insecticide (Permethrin, in this case) but if you are, these can be a good way to go, especially for rock walls and other mouse-friendly areas. Tick tubes are cardboard tubes filled with cotton that's been treated with permethrin. the idea is that the mice use the cotton to line their nests and the permethrin kills the ticks on them, decreasing your chances of getting bitten. Supposedly, it does not harm the mice but who really knows what effect is has on the food chain. We have used them in rock walls at our home. You can buy a six-pack of the tubes on Amazon for $25 or you could buy a bottle of the Permethrin spray (about $15), get some cotton balls, save some toilet paper or paper towel rolls and make your own for less. If you go that route, be sure to wear gloves and wash your skin thoroughly afterwards.

Image courtesy of Damminix Tick Tubes

9. Put up an owl box. A barn owl eats roughly six mice each night and a family of barn owls can eat an astounding 3,000 mice per breeding season. That would be a big help with the mouse problem... Plus, so cool to have owls near your house that you can watch. You can buy a ready-made owl box or build your own. Click here for more information about where to situate your owl box. And remember, you can not use poison of any kind (rat, mouse, etc.) at your property since it will end up poisoning your birds of prey.


My husband built a barn owl box with the kids this fall but so far, no one has taken us up on our offer of hospitality. Here's hoping!


10. Get outdoor cats. By keeping them outside, you eliminate the risk of the animals bringing ticks into your home. Many shelters have way more feral cats on their hands then they know what to do with (and they've been vaccinated and neutered). If you can offer these not-so-socially inclined kitties a warm, covered place to sleep and food and water, the shelter will probably be happy to give you as many as you like. Be mindful that you may have trouble getting feral cats to stay at your house. And you should take into consideration the sad reality that outdoor cats tend to wreak havoc on the local bird population. But still, it could help!

If you've made it this far, you deserve a reward. Take a listen to Ticks by Brad Paisley. And good luck!

I'm Moving My Political Posts - You're Welcome To Come Along!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hi there, lovers of good food, local farmers and clean, green homes everywhere.

I've gotten rather off-topic here of late and wanted to let you know that I'm going to stop posting about politics here - it's really not what you signed up for, after all.

But that does not mean I will stop writing about politics and activism...

I've created a new web site/blog/email list called Daily Acts of Resistance and if you share my politics, I encourage you to visit it and sign up to receive posts by email

I will not be posting every single day but the gist is that I will share small, achievable ways you can help resist Trump and the Republicans agenda.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program :)

I hope you're all well.

-Eve

My friend, Jess, me, and my mom, Rose at the Women's March in NYC last weekend.

Recommendations for Bizarro World

Friday, January 6, 2017

Apologies for not posting much lately. I've been busy and have just not had the "appetite" to write about food because I'm so distracted by the insanity taking place in our government and society.

Beyond the outrage and fear I've been experiencing since November 9th, one of the most disorienting aspects is trying to reconcile this horrifying new reality with the relative abundance, peace and beauty of my daily life. How can both be real? But then again, that's life in a nutshell, isn't it? I'll just have to keep qualifying my answer to the question, "How are you?" by saying, "I'm good. Well, aside from the fact that an insane person is going to become President."

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few things I've found noteworthy.

BJ Miller
On the feelings front, these two pieces touched me:

This NY Times profile on B.J. Miller - a triple amputee and palliative care doctor who helps people die well and fully in a non-medicalized, non-pathologized way. It made me cry and it made me think.

This short post by Kim Foster about the intense, heart-wrenching experience of working with her two foster children's biological parents to create an open adoption. Hats off to Kim and David and people like them. They are my heroes.

On the political activism front, here are some things you should check out:

The Indivisible Guide (now a web site) is a must-read. It was written by a bunch of former Congressional staffers and demystifies the process of taking back the country and explains how the Tea Party gained power. Hint, you have to actually get involved. If you're in my neck of the woods, please let me know if you'd like to join me in starting a citizen action group.

AdStrike is a new web site that makes it super easy for you to tweet at companies that are advertising on Breitbart.com in hopes of getting them to withdraw their ads, hitting Breitbart right in the bank account. You can also post on Facebook - they provide the screenshot, sample text and everything. It's a wonderfully satisfying way to spend a few minutes!


Flippable - a new site/org/list that aims to flip control of government. They send timely, easy actions you can take.

WallOfUs - another new site/org/list that provides simple, weekly acts of resistance.


Call your members of Congress, people. Every damn day!

And turn out for one of the many marches for women taking place in cities across the country on Saturday, January 21st.

Happy New Year to you all.

Monday, March 6, 2017

10 Tips For Avoiding Tick Bites and Lyme Disease

Spring is coming. Once the ground temps reach 45 degrees, deer ticks (they're really called black legged ticks and are actually primarily transmitted by the white footed mouse) will be out and about which means it's officially Lyme disease season.

According to some local experts, 2017 is shaping up to be an epic year for Lyme disease infections. So what can you do to avoid the coming plague?

1. Do a daily tick check on yourself and your family. Remove all clothing and carefully check for tiny black dots. Ticks are programmed to crawl up - towards your head - they love to feed on the thin, blood rich skin there so make sure to check behind your ears, at your hair line, the nape of your neck, etc., very carefully. But ticks can be anywhere - they may decide just to dig in at one of the other warm spots on your body - armpit, crotch, back of knee, etc.

Keep in mind that ticks come in many different sizes depending on where they are in their life cycle. Deer ticks in the nymphal stage are so small that they can be extremely hard to see - even when you're looking right at one, it can be hard to tell for sure if it's really a thing. So far, in my experience, it is often really a thing, unfortunately.


2. If you find a tick, remove it ASAP! The longer it's biting you, the greater the chance that it will transmit disease. Keep in mind that there's only one right way to remove a tick and a whole lot of wrong ways. Think of the tick as a potentially disease-filled bag. You do not want to squeeze that bag of yucky bacteria into your body through the tick's bite.

Here's what you do:
  • Using pointy tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. 
  • Gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion. If the tick's mouthparts do not come out with the rest of the tick, don't panic. The mouthparts, alone, can't transmit disease. You can either pick them out like you would a splinter or just leave them there and they'll eventually fall out on their own. 
  • Wash the area thoroughly with disinfectant and then apply antibacterial ointment. 
  • Save the tick to identify and to potentially send away for testing. I usually stick them to a piece of tape, pop them in a Ziploc and label it with the date in case I decide to send it for testing. 
  • If you do want to get the tick tested, you can mail it to Igenex Lab in California or to the LMZ at UMASS Amherst ($50 per tick).  
  • Watch the area closely for up to a month for signs of a rash that is at least 2 inches in diameter and probably will spread considerably (the tick bite may be red and irritated but a tiny red spot does not mean you have Lyme disease.) If you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms, go see a doctor right away and get on a two week course of antibiotics. Keep in mind that testing for Lyme disease is notoriously unreliable so if you get the rash and/or other symptoms with a tick bite, just get treated. 
  • You should also insist on being tested for the co-infections that are often transmitted along with Lyme -- babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis are the most common co-infections and will require different treatment from the antibiotics that are used to treat Lyme!
Here's what you DON'T do:
  • Touch the tick with your bare hands. 
  • Squeeze the body of the tick. 
  • Put alcohol, nail polish remover or Vaseline on the tick. 
  • Put a hot match or cigarette on the tick in an effort to make it "back out." 
Not only do these things not help but they also increase the likelihood that the tick will end up transmitting Lyme disease to you.

3. Avoid contact with grasses, leaf litter, branches - basically, the entire frikkin' outdoors.

4. If you do dare to venture out of doors, wear light-colored, long pants and shirts, and tuck the pants into your socks. I will warn you that this is not a super sexy look (see below) but safety first... If you spend a lot of time mucking about outdoors, you may want to get a pair of high-cut Mucks or Bogs but still tuck your socks into your pants inside them.


5. Consider using insect repellent. I have mixed feelings about this but will sometimes spray my outdoor work clothes and boots with this Permethrin spray when I'm specifically going out to pull up barberry bushes or rake leaves. You spray it once and it lasts quite a long time - even through the wash - which is a little scary.

And we have a bottle of this 20% Picaridin spray that we occasionally use. Again, I have mixed feelings about it all but you should make up your own mind about whether you want to use it or not. You can read more about it on Consumer Reports and on the Connecticut (the original home of Lyme disease) government fact sheet.

6. Reduce tick-friendly (a.k.a mouse-friendly) habitats near your home and widen the borders between the areas you use and any woodlands or meadows. That means keeping things dry, letting lots of light in, and limiting vegetation and stone walls or piles of brush where mice like to hide.
  • Keep your grass mowed. 
  • Remove any leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn. 
  • Restrict the use of groundcovers like pachysandra in areas frequented by family and roaming pets. 
  • Remove brush and leaves around stonewalls and wood piles. 
  • Discourage rodent activity. Clean up and seal stonewalls and small openings around the home and move firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house. 
  • Keep dogs and cats out of the woods to reduce ticks brought into the home. 
  • Put up a deer fence. 
  • Move kid's swing sets and sand boxes away from the woodland edge and place them on a wood chip or mulch type foundation. 
  • Trim tree branches and shrubs around the lawn edge to let in more sunlight. 
  • Create a 3-foot or wider wood chip, mulch, or gravel border between lawn and woods or stonewalls. Most tree companies will deliver wood chips for free as will many municipalities so they can be a very affordable option. We get a couple loads a year. 
  • Widen woodland trails to avoid brushing against branches and leaves.
7. Get rid of Japanese barberry plants! These thorny plants are deer mouse magnets that tend to serve as nurseries for black legged tickets. But you have to dig them out, roots and all or they will just sprout up again with renewed vigor. We use a digging bar, a pair of long-handled Fiskar loppers as well as a flame weeder to try to control the rampant barberry on our nine-acre property. I also wear a pair of long gloves meant for pruning roses since the thorns are pretty vicious - I learned that the hard way :) Read my post on this for more information.

Japanese Barberry by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2014

8. Scatter "Tick Tubes" around your property. Again, you have to be comfortable using an insecticide (Permethrin, in this case) but if you are, these can be a good way to go, especially for rock walls and other mouse-friendly areas. Tick tubes are cardboard tubes filled with cotton that's been treated with permethrin. the idea is that the mice use the cotton to line their nests and the permethrin kills the ticks on them, decreasing your chances of getting bitten. Supposedly, it does not harm the mice but who really knows what effect is has on the food chain. We have used them in rock walls at our home. You can buy a six-pack of the tubes on Amazon for $25 or you could buy a bottle of the Permethrin spray (about $15), get some cotton balls, save some toilet paper or paper towel rolls and make your own for less. If you go that route, be sure to wear gloves and wash your skin thoroughly afterwards.

Image courtesy of Damminix Tick Tubes

9. Put up an owl box. A barn owl eats roughly six mice each night and a family of barn owls can eat an astounding 3,000 mice per breeding season. That would be a big help with the mouse problem... Plus, so cool to have owls near your house that you can watch. You can buy a ready-made owl box or build your own. Click here for more information about where to situate your owl box. And remember, you can not use poison of any kind (rat, mouse, etc.) at your property since it will end up poisoning your birds of prey.


My husband built a barn owl box with the kids this fall but so far, no one has taken us up on our offer of hospitality. Here's hoping!


10. Get outdoor cats. By keeping them outside, you eliminate the risk of the animals bringing ticks into your home. Many shelters have way more feral cats on their hands then they know what to do with (and they've been vaccinated and neutered). If you can offer these not-so-socially inclined kitties a warm, covered place to sleep and food and water, the shelter will probably be happy to give you as many as you like. Be mindful that you may have trouble getting feral cats to stay at your house. And you should take into consideration the sad reality that outdoor cats tend to wreak havoc on the local bird population. But still, it could help!

If you've made it this far, you deserve a reward. Take a listen to Ticks by Brad Paisley. And good luck!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I'm Moving My Political Posts - You're Welcome To Come Along!

Hi there, lovers of good food, local farmers and clean, green homes everywhere.

I've gotten rather off-topic here of late and wanted to let you know that I'm going to stop posting about politics here - it's really not what you signed up for, after all.

But that does not mean I will stop writing about politics and activism...

I've created a new web site/blog/email list called Daily Acts of Resistance and if you share my politics, I encourage you to visit it and sign up to receive posts by email

I will not be posting every single day but the gist is that I will share small, achievable ways you can help resist Trump and the Republicans agenda.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program :)

I hope you're all well.

-Eve

My friend, Jess, me, and my mom, Rose at the Women's March in NYC last weekend.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Recommendations for Bizarro World

Apologies for not posting much lately. I've been busy and have just not had the "appetite" to write about food because I'm so distracted by the insanity taking place in our government and society.

Beyond the outrage and fear I've been experiencing since November 9th, one of the most disorienting aspects is trying to reconcile this horrifying new reality with the relative abundance, peace and beauty of my daily life. How can both be real? But then again, that's life in a nutshell, isn't it? I'll just have to keep qualifying my answer to the question, "How are you?" by saying, "I'm good. Well, aside from the fact that an insane person is going to become President."

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few things I've found noteworthy.

BJ Miller
On the feelings front, these two pieces touched me:

This NY Times profile on B.J. Miller - a triple amputee and palliative care doctor who helps people die well and fully in a non-medicalized, non-pathologized way. It made me cry and it made me think.

This short post by Kim Foster about the intense, heart-wrenching experience of working with her two foster children's biological parents to create an open adoption. Hats off to Kim and David and people like them. They are my heroes.

On the political activism front, here are some things you should check out:

The Indivisible Guide (now a web site) is a must-read. It was written by a bunch of former Congressional staffers and demystifies the process of taking back the country and explains how the Tea Party gained power. Hint, you have to actually get involved. If you're in my neck of the woods, please let me know if you'd like to join me in starting a citizen action group.

AdStrike is a new web site that makes it super easy for you to tweet at companies that are advertising on Breitbart.com in hopes of getting them to withdraw their ads, hitting Breitbart right in the bank account. You can also post on Facebook - they provide the screenshot, sample text and everything. It's a wonderfully satisfying way to spend a few minutes!


Flippable - a new site/org/list that aims to flip control of government. They send timely, easy actions you can take.

WallOfUs - another new site/org/list that provides simple, weekly acts of resistance.


Call your members of Congress, people. Every damn day!

And turn out for one of the many marches for women taking place in cities across the country on Saturday, January 21st.

Happy New Year to you all.