By Sherry Gigous, FSBD Volunteer
Park Rangers at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are adding ticks to their list of things to keep an eye on and educate visitors about this summer season.
Some of these little guys, who hitchhike on bushes tall grasses and other vegetation are so small that they are not visible to the human eye or are extremely difficult to spot. They can be smaller than poppy seeds! They also have the ability to transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis.
PARK Superintendent Scott Tucker, along with Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department, is focused on following preventative safety measures against ticks before they even have a chance to bite. This includes wearing long sleeves (tick gaiter sleeves will enhance safety) and long pants that can be tucked into boots or socks if possible. Light-colored clothes will make it easier to spot ticks. Use insect repellent that includes 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. Consider wearing clothing treated with permethrin. Inspect yourself for ticks after being outdoors. Pay particular attention to skin folds. Put clothes in the dryer on high heat for 60 minutes to kill any remaining ticks.
Check for any bull’s-eye patterned rashes. And if you find a tick, a tick-removing tool will help remove it intact, leaving no parts behind. Friends of Sleeping Bear will donate 150 such tools to Park staff this summer.
Unfortunately, even with the best proactive practices, illness may still be transmitted from ticks. A Friends volunteer became infected with Lyme disease after hiking the Kettles trail last year, even though she had worn long clothing, found no ticks on herself, and had no warning rash. A few weeks after returning to her home downstate, she visited her local ER thinking she was experiencing a heart attack and has suffered malaise, neurological pain in her neck and the base of her skull. She has been diagnosed with Lyme disease.
Even with fairly successful treatment, she continues to have Lyme-related rheumatoid pain in her knees. If you are feeling unwell for no explainable reason after recently visiting an area where ticks are prevalent, it’s important to follow up in diagnosing possible tickborne illness.
Don’t forget about your fur babies either! Make sure you discuss tick prevention with your veterinarian.
Be tick smart to stay safe and have fun at SLBE this summer!