Commentary: Lemming and Lyme

 Springtime, that magical time of year when the mild weather; wonderful colors; and budding trees remind us why we tolerate those nasty winters.  It’s also that time of year when the journalistic lemmings all spew the same half truths about protecting ourselves against ticks and that invisible enemy called Borrelia Burgdorferi ( more commonly known as Lyme disease).

So let’s take a look at what’s being reported and how we might take that extra step to protect ourselves and our families from this disease:

  • Only deer ticks carry LD 

Convential wisdom: 40-50%  deer ticks carry LD.

Practical wisdom: all ticks are cesspools of bacteria.  They can also carry  Bartonella; Babesiosis; Ehrlichia; Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF); Rickettsia; and other pathogens.  Additionallly, we now know other biting insects can spread LD though generally the percentage of these insects that are infected is much less (fleas; mites; mosquitoes; and biting flies).

  •  If bitten, you will experience a bulls-eye rash 

Convential wisdom: 70% of bitten people will see a bulls-eye rash.

Practical wisdom: it is more like 30% , and that is if the bite is in a visible area (i.e., not your hair).

  •  Keep skin covered

 Convential wisdom: Put pant legs into socks

Practical wisdom: ticks will generally climb to higher locations and certainly migrate towards the smell of skin.  So if you have a tick on you, it will eventually find a good location to feed and most likely end up in your hair.  If you suspect that you might have a tick on your clothes, throw your clothes directly into a hot drier to burn them.  Note: ticks will survive a washing machine cycle.

  •  Wear light colored clothing

 Convential wisdom: You will be able to spot ticks easier against light colors.

Practical wisdom: very true as long as your clothes are not stained, dirty or wrinkled.

  •  Use tweezers to remove  attached ticks

 Convential wisdom: Grab ticks as close to the skin as possible.

Practical wisdom: either way, when you grab a tick you may be sqeezing the bacteria into the person.  The only way to really do this safely is with a tick remover.  (

  •  Use tick repellent

 Convential wisdom: Use a repellent with 20-30% Deet.

Practical wisdom: Deet is a highly carcinogenic chemical.  Try natural repellents like lemon eucalyptus instead.

  •  Keep lawn groomed

 Convential wisdom: mow lawn.

Practical wisdom: It may make your lawn less friendly to wildlife that carry ticks onto your lawn but it is unlikely to kill existing ticks.  That is unless you bag your grass, thus moving all the ticks to one location.  Of course, that brings its own risk of getting bitten by handling the grass cuttings.


Above all else, use your own common sense to reduce exposure to LD.  The only real way to avoid ticks crawling on you is by wearing a white Burka to see them once on you.

All the best,


~ by Rob on April 11, 2010.

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