Mild winter weather means ticks might be more active than usual

If this mild winter weather has you spending more time outdoors, a Maryland professor wants you to keep in mind that you may be sharing nature’s beauty with ticks.

“With all this crazy warm weather we’re having this year … ticks are going to be active even in the middle of winter,” said “Bug Guy” Mike Raupp, a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland.

He said without a host, such as a deer to latch on to, ticks go dormant when temperatures stay in the 20s and 30s. But when temperatures reach about 45 degrees, dormant ticks become active again.

Because of the risk of Lyme disease, Raupp recommends that you take the same precautions that you would do during warmer months to keep ticks away.

“If you’re going to go out for a walk, be sure you stay in the center of the path. If you get off in the weeds, be sure you’re going to tuck your pant legs into your socks. This forces the ticks up and over your clothing, where they’re easier to find,” he said.

Another approach is using tick repellents.

“One that works pretty well is oil of lemon eucalyptus. This can be applied to your shoes, your footwear … your pant legs below your legs,” Raupp said.

At the end of a day spent outdoors, check your body for ticks and have someone else check the places you can’t see. Removing ticks from your skin within the first 24 hours will greatly reduce your chances of getting a tick-borne disease, such as Lyme.

Your clothes should get special attention, too.

“Take off those clothes (and) put them right into the dryer. Put them on medium heat for about a half an hour. That will kill any ticks that came home with you,” Raupp said.

Unfortunately, Lyme disease is very prevalent in the D.C. region. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018 there were 57 new confirmed cases in D.C., 894 in Maryland, and 744 in Virginia.

Nationwide in 2018, more than 33,000 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease were reported to the CDC.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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