With the onset of spring, a small creature is making its annual debut on Cape Ann. 

Ticks. 

No one likes them, but everyone knows about them. 

The blood-sucking insects are back in the area, as announced on the Facebook page Ticks Cape Ann, and have physicians, veterinarians, and community members hyper aware as they creep out into the public.

"Don't let any suspicions you might have fall below your radar," wrote Gloucester resident David Calvo, an administrator of the Ticks Cape Ann page. "Get checked, because if you can get it early you can hopefully avoid the chronic long-term side effects."

The expectation of an especially bad year for tick-haters is due to a mild winter: not cold enough to freeze them and not dry enough to scorch them. 

"Cold can kill ticks but dryness does, too," Calvo said. "We didn't have any extreme cold and we didn't have any extreme dryness this winter."

Pests.org projects an above average tick population for the coming spring season, especially for the deer, brown dog, American dog, and lone Star ticks.

Andrew S. Lenhardt, M.D., who practices family medicine on the North Shore, clarified that there has been a misconception circling around about what type of tick could be considered a deer tick – which can often host organisms that cause Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis and babesiosis.

"Any ticks, small or big, should be assumed to be a deer tick," he explained. "It is very difficult for anyone, even a physician, to reliably differentiate between a deer tick and a non-deer tick."

So what can be done to avoid them? 

Calvo suggested staying covered and spraying repellent as two great precautionary measures. 

"The big thing is to check yourself," he said. "If you aren't thoroughly covered, they will just keep walking until there is an area that they bury themselves."

Lenhardt has three suggestions for ways to remove ticks: 

1. Use a tweezer and grab as close to the skin that is possible. Grab the tick and pull straight up. 

2. Take an alcohol swab and rub around the tick. 

3. Go see your physician. 

For Calvo, the impact of ticks on Cape Ann have personally affected his daily life. 

He hypothesized that he contracted Lyme disease from a tick that was in his vegetable garden.

The symptoms of the disease are not like others, Calvo found.

"The symptoms keep changing," he explained. "It will be one thing and then it will change into something else."

Calvo eventually received antibiotics, which helped, but still experiences side effects from the disease.

"I don't have it as worse as other people but I still have to be mindful with my diet so that my immune system stays strong," Calvo said. 

His son also has Lyme disease, but the doctor was able to catch it soon enough to limit the side effects the disease would have on his son's daily life

For canine and feline friends, Cape Ann Veterinarian Hospital in Gloucester is recommending dogs be given oral once a month tablets all year-round. Lyme disease vaccines are also available for dogs.

There are other products including sprays, powders, dips, shampoos, and collars for felines, dogs and horses. 

"While flea and tick products do a very good job of preventing infestations or controlling an existing problem, none are 100% effective all of the time," the Cape Ann Veterinarian Hospital's website explains. "It's always a good idea to check your pet (and yourself) for ticks after a trip to the woods or grass field."

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com

Tick tips

Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.

Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.

Consider using an insect repellent containing DEET and applying it to shoes and clothing.

Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors.

Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Avoid overgrown brush and tall grass and contacting vegetation.

Do a full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly.

Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.

Keep long hair tied back.

Remove ticks promptly. To remove, use tweezers and grasp the tick’s mouthparts at the surface of the skin and pull gently straight out in steady motion.

Wipe the bite with an antiseptic or wash with soap and water.

Do not, while the tick is attached: squeeze a tick, rub with petroleum jelly, burn it with a hot match or cigarette, pour kerosene or nail polish on it.

Note where the bite was and check over coming days for signs of infection or rash. 

Find more information at www.cdc.gov/lyme

Recommended for you