We are not the only ones enjoying the Exeter weather outside right now. Below our feet, crawling between blades of grass, lurk many black-legged arachnids known as ticks. Deer ticks are the most prevalent ticks here in New England and are most prevalent along the Seacoast. These ticks do not fly or jump, but have traveled long and far, hitching rides and sucking blood from deer and then field mice, eventually winding up in our quads and fields. These creatures may be small, but the disease that some carry can powerfully impact our well-being. Lyme disease and at least four other infections are transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. Sixty percent of deer ticks are infected with the Lyme disease bacteria.
Phillips Exeter Academy’s Campus Safety and Lamont Health and Wellness Center urges all students, faculty, and staff to be on the lookout for ticks, especially from late April to September. In an informational pamphlet for the Exeter community, Campus Safety advises, “Although not all ticks are… actually infected with the Lyme disease bacteria, please assume that any tick on your body MIGHT give you Lyme disease.” At Exeter Summer, students are frequently outside for sports and field trips, so you are likely to encounter one or two ticks during your time here.
A small, red bump often appears at the site of a tick bite or tick removal and resolves over a few days. This is normal after a tick bite and does not indicate Lyme Disease. However, an expanding red rash forming a bull’s-eye pattern is a clear indicator of Lyme Disease. It is typically not itchy or painful. In addition, a fever, the chills, fatigue, body aches and a headache may accompany the rash, or occur in the absence of a rash.
Lyme disease at PEA has been rare and fortunately it is largely preventable. The tick needs to be on your skin for 36 hours for it to transmit Lyme disease. Here are some tips and tricks from Campus Safety to keep in mind:
- Avoid walking in tall grass or fields.
- Wear shoes, light-colored socks, long pants (tucked into socks), long sleeve shirts etc. whenever walking in fields or hiking in the woods
- Use insect repellent (DEET) on clothes and skin
- Inspect your body daily (in the shower, for example) for ticks, and remember that ticks like to bite in warm, dark areas of the body like behind the knees, behind the ears, the groin, and the back of neck.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove any tick on your body and wash the area with soap and water or antiseptic.
- Do not use a hot match or rub Vaseline on the tick.
- Save the tick in a plastic bag! Don’t throw it away!
- Go to health center to have them remove the tick if you wish, show them the tick if you removed it, and discuss possible treatment
It’s important to enjoy the wonderful weather and beautiful fields we have here in New Hampshire. Just remember to do a thorough tick check at the end of the day. Keep your eyes peeled and if you do find a tick, remove it as soon as possible. Don’t let the worry of ticks get under your skin, though, because making a simple tick check part of your daily routine, is your best defense against these black-legged critters.