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Diana Gordon: Helpful tips to combat risk of Lyme disease

To the editor:

Thanks so much for your continuing and significant coverage on Lyme disease. Here are some additional practicalities.

If you are bitten by a tick, you can save it in alcohol, or on a piece of tape, and have it tested at the University of Massachusetts. You don’t need the whole tick. Google “UMass tick testing.”

Lyme disease testing for humans has proven unreliable, but the UMass tests are affordable and highly sensitive. They test weekly. Roughly 30 percent of deer ticks are infected.

Though you can be bitten any day above freezing, ticks are abundant May through mid-September. Mice are primary carriers, as well as chipmunks, squirrels, fox, raccoon, and yes, deer. To reduce the possibility of ticks in your yard, you can soak cotton balls in permetherin, place them in tubes, and mice will take them to line their nests. The permetherin kills the immature ticks on the mice, but doesn’t, to my knowledge, harm the mice. Damminix makes these tubes, which are available at Amazon and elsewhere online. They’ve been used successfully in Long Island, and seem to have helped at our house.

If you work outside, or hike frequently, consider a line of clothing called Insect Shield, which includes simple khaki pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks, all manufactured with permetherin and effective through 60 wash cycles. Other advice has been to wear light-colored clothing and tuck your pants into your socks. This won’t protect you, but it will allow you to see the ticks before they crawl onto your skin, so check frequently.

Ticks are easily desiccated, so after being in areas that might be tick habitat, putting clothes in a hot dryer for 10 minutes might be helpful.

Diana Gordon


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