Ticks that transmit Lyme disease don't take the winter off

Molly Daly
January 14, 2019 - 4:00 am
Ticks don't go dormant just because the calendar says it's winter.

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — If you think ticks aren't active in the winter, think again. 

"As long as it's above freezing, you can get a tick bite," said Penn State Insect Identification Lab Director Michael Skvarla.

Skvarla says black-legged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, are the ones that transmit Lyme disease. To keep them from making a meal of you, he says to forsake fashion and tuck your pants into your socks.

"It looks kind of silly, but it will help keep the ticks off of you, or at least force them to climb up your pants where you're more likely to see them crawling on you," he said. 

Skvarla also suggests adding a repellant to your winter wardrobe.

"Permethrin is a good product that you can soak or spray your clothes with, and it will kill ticks when they get on it," he advised. 

There's also the time-honored tick check, not just on yourself and your kids, but also your pets, because ticks that haven't embedded can easily drop off and find another host.

"Ticks can move. They can certainly crawl many feet to yards," Skvarla said. 

If you do find an embedded tick, "pull it straight out with pointed tweezers or a tick removal device. Definitely do not squeeze it, do not squeeze it, don't put any substance on it, don't burn it," said National Lyme Disease Association president Pat Smith.

Skvarla also says don't try to wash them off your clothes. Stick them in the dryer as "the high heat and dry air in the dryer will kill any ticks that happen to be on your clothes," he explained. 

He says ten minutes should do the trick.