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Molnar: A Tick Lament

05/08/12 5:55PM By Martha Molnar
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(Host) We can avoid Lyme disease, we're told. But commentator Martha Molnar, a public relations and freelance writer who moved to Vermont in 2008, wonders if we really can.

(Molnar) We've been warned.

Lyme disease is on the rise. And this year's early spring means an earlier infestation of the ticks that cause the disease.

The warnings are accompanied by precautions I read from beginning to end, but even though I have every intention of following each and every one of them to the letter - as everyone should - I have to confess that more often than not - I don't.

Trouble is, even though I don't WANT to get Lyme disease, these precautions conflict with enjoying the outdoors that starts at my door, and brought us here in the first place.

The first warning says: avoid wooded, brushy areas and long-grass. But that's everything beyond the driveway or the lawn.

Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded or high grass areas. At my house, this would be a huge and expensive job, and then what? Not cross that barrier?

Actually, it's ok to cross, but only when wearing long pants, long sleeves and socks, with the pants tucked inside the socks. But it's hard to imagine doing this every time I go outside and not feeling the sun on my skin or the silky grass between my toes - especially in July and August.

I could, as another suggestion goes, use insect repellants laced with at least 30 percent DEET. Plus clothing treated with permethryn. But that would mean being slathered with chemicals from morning to late evening, for months at a time - every year.

Doing outside activities like gardening without being properly clothed and sprayed is another no-no. But like anyone who gardens, I can't resist yanking at stray weeds or snapping off spent blooms whenever I'm outside. And I'm not likely to run inside to suit-up first.

The final measure is the easiest to follow. Take a shower within two hours of coming indoors, accompanied by a thorough inspection of all the exposed and hidden body areas. But this is only easy relative to the other measures, because living so close to nature means I'm in and out all day long. I shudder to think how many showers and inspections this would take - in just one summer day.

In a city or suburb, it would be easier to heed the precautions. But here, the whole outdoors is a threat. So what's an outdoor-lover to do?

Well, I've found a clever tick remover that I intend to use instead of the old pair of tweezers. And since only a minority of bites lead to Lyme disease, I'm hoping my luck will hold for at least another summer, and maybe beyond.

But there's one bit of prevention I just heard about that sounds intriguing. It's simple, organic and involves domesticated guineafowl, who have a particular fondness for ticks. So now all I have to do is find some guineafowl, get rid of our nearby foxes, and convince my husband to become a guineafowl farmer.

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