Summer is upon us, and it’s a great time to get out into nature and enjoy the great outdoors. But if you do end up spending a lot of time outside, and in particular, traipsing around in the brush and the woods, you should be aware of the growing tick population in the United States. The parasitic arachnids, whose dominance over the United States is growing in sheer numbers, Lyme’s infections, and scope, could quickly turn your summer into a bummer. Here is what you need to know to stay safe this summer.
First: Tick Cases Are Rising
The number of tick-borne diseases has been steadily rising in the United States. The number of people reporting ticks on their dogs jumped 30 percent from March to April alone. This is obviously concerning, as at least seven species of tick can spread, most commonly, Lyme disease. In a typical year, there might be up to half a million cases of Lyme disease in the United States. We are no longer having “typical years,” as tick cases rise steadily and climate change wreaks havoc on our ecosystem. (The tick population has grown 15 percent since last year.)
Where Are the Tick Cases Growing?
Cases are on the rise across the U.S., but especially in the Midwest. Weather Channel meteorologist Domenica Davis referred to the region as a “tick time bomb.” Elizabeth Schiffman, an epidemiologist supervisor at the Minnesota Department of Health, agrees, noting that “ticks are already out and about” in Minnesota and the rest of the Midwest.
However, there has also been a rise in cases in areas that are not typically associated with ticks, including California and throughout the Northeast. So while ticks might be seen as a regional issue, be sure to regularly check your kids (and yourselves!) as well as your dogs as you spend time outside this summer. They could genuinely be anywhere — from dunes on beaches to the forested mountains.
The massive growth in ticks is primarily due to weather, which is warmer, wetter, and less cold than ever.
The best deterrent against ticks is a long, harsh winter, as they are extremely sensitive to cold weather. The United States had a mild winter and spring this last year, which experts believe have created the ideal conditions for the tick population to grow 15 percent since last year.
What Can Parents Do?
The best thing you can do is take measures to prevent tick bites, including wearing shoes, socks, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts while you are outdoors. And after you have spent time in nature, make sure to check yourself, your kid, and your pet for ticks. If you find a tick on your body, remove it with a pair of tweezers and clean the bite with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide.