Summer Safety: Ticks

Summer Safety: Ticks

Walking the dog, at the baseball field, on a hike, and while practicing chip shots at the practice green on the golf course.  All places that I have heard where people have picked up ticks this year.

The arachnid, yes they are related to spiders, are thriving this year due to factors that include a warmer climate, mild winter, the recent masting of oak trees and the subsequent spike in the white-footed mouse population.  According to Dr. Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, in a Huffington Post article, acorns are the main reason for the 2017 boom in ticks.  When oak trees go through the masting process the trees produce their largest numbers of acorns in a four to five year period.  This process occurred in 2015.  The large numbers of acorns lead to an increase in the white-footed mouse population, who rely on acorns as a major food source, in 2016.  The large number of white-footed mice, which carry Lyme disease, Powassan virus and many other tick-borne illnesses and are a primary host for black-legged ticks, leads to an increased number of ticks in 2017.

Not only are the numbers of ticks up in 2017, but the number of ticks carrying tick-borne illnesses is up as well.  How can you protect yourself, your family, employees or co-workers?  One way is to not believe in many of the myths associated with ticks.  According to experts, ticks cannot jump or fly.  If you find a tick on your upper body, it’s most likely because you didn’t notice it crawl onto your lower extremities first.  Feet and ankles are the entry point for most ticks.  Myth 2:  You shouldn’t use DEET.  Some people are allergic to the chemical but studies suggest DEET isn’t actually harmful for most people.  Experts recommend the use of DEET.  Myth 3:  Winter kills off most ticks.  This is not true.  Ticks are able to bury deep in the soil to protect themselves from the conditions.  Myth 4:  You should take your time detaching a tick.  If you spot a tick, you should remove it immediately.  Don’t wait for the folk remedies of Vaseline, nail polish or burnt match heads, Ostfeld says, because those don’t work.  Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible with a pair of tweezers and pull it straight out.

Additional steps you can take to prevent picking up ticks are: Avoiding areas with high grass, brush and leaf clutter, using repellant with permethrin to treat clothes and shoes, use a repellant that contains 2o percent or more DEET on your skin and wear light colored clothing, long sleeves and closed-toed shoes when hiking.  You should also thoroughly check your body if you’ve been in a tick-prone area.  Parents should check children and have a friend check hard-to-see areas on their bodies as well.

The IMT Loss Control Department has a variety of safety resources available to assist our insureds in their efforts to educate their employees on a wide range of safety topics, including safety committees, to help reduce both exposures and injuries.  

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