How to stay safe this tick season

Tick ​​season came earlier this year because ticks never actually went into hibernation due to the mild winter, experts say.

When ticks are active, the chance of contracting tick-borne diseases is more likely.

Royale Scuderi, executive director of the Central New York Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Alliance, has Lyme disease. She said she has been using her dog Charlie for support to get through recent outbreaks.

“Charlie is my support partner. You know, he lies next to me, he nudges me, he knows when I’m not feeling well. He also encourages me to get out of bed and take him for a walk because he needs to be taken care of,” Scuderi said.

Scuderi says she was sick for months and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with her. She first got sick in the summer of 2010, but it wasn’t until March 2011 that she was diagnosed with Lyme disease.

“I was tired all the time and I didn’t feel so good. And then I started getting headaches and nausea and I thought, ‘what is this?’ Scuderi said.

More than a decade later, she says she’s still dealing with the symptoms.

“Thirteen years later. I have chronic pain, joint pain. I still have fatigue,” he said.

Harry Nugent, a natural resource educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, said the ticks are already out of the house.

“Especially with the mild winter. They didn’t really come down and hibernate like they normally do. They were pretty much ready whenever it got hot to go out to eat,” she said.

He said there are actions people can take to prevent tick bites.

“The best thing to do is wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, long pants and tuck pants into shirt and pants into socks,” Nugent said.

While people are out, he recommends that they stay on the beaten path.

“The ticks that can climb a little higher and just sit on the end of the leaves, and then all it takes is a simple brush for them to latch onto,” he said.

Once inside, he said he recommends that people check themselves for ticks and, if they find one, remove them properly.

“It’s going to get as close to the skin as possible, right on the head of the tick, squeeze, pull and remove,” he said.

Pets can also be tick magnets, so it’s important to inspect them as well, just like Scuderi does with Charlie.

“I was checking him out, which is what I normally do when I look for tics. He has light-colored skin or hair, so that’s helpful,” Scuderi said.

Scuderi lives with Lyme disease every day, but lucky for her, Charlie is always by her side.

“He’s helped me a lot as part of my support system. He’s here to greet you when you wake up,” she said. “Pets are an amazing source of support.”