Local solution to tick problem
"I really started this for my daughter," Victoria DiMonda, co-founder of the company said.
DiMonda's daughter came inside after taking a walk and had a tick. Her puppy's first walk outside also resulted in four ticks. Due to her daughter's sensitive skin, her puppy's age and her reluctance to use DEET or other chemicals to protect them from ticks, she instead looked to a natural alternative.
"It [the recipe for the spray] just kind of happened," she said. "I used it [her spray], it worked and I liked the smell of it."
Green Mountain Tick Repellent is a combination of the essential oils Rose Geranium, Lemongrass and Cedarwood, as well as alcohol and filtered water. The high water content in the spray keeps it from aggravating sensitive skin.
Ticks, especially deer ticks, are widely considered to be carriers of Lyme disease, a potentially debilitating illness, that is usually treated with a regimen of antibiotics. The spray, which is being sold all over New England, including the Vermont Country Store, may have become popular with the high incidence of ticks and Lyme disease in Vermont. In 2013, according to Health Department Data, there were over 200 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Bennington County. All together, the state of Vermont has 674 confirmed cases of Lyme disease and 219 probably cases. Most infections occur in the summer months, with the highest rate of onset in July and August.
"I got to the point where I [decided to] just make it [tick spray] and I kept paying attention to oils that help with ticks," she said. "It worked really well...gave it to friends and they encouraged me to sell it."
The spray is bottled by DiMonda and her partner Glenn Gunther in her kitchen where they make each bottle by hand. It is safe to use on animals, but DiMonda always tells people to check with their veterinarian before use. She said she has sold the spray to people that use it on their dogs, horses and even donkeys.
Erica Berl, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the health Department said they recommend that people use DEET or treat their clothing with permethrin to protect against ticks and the Lyme Disease that they potentially carry.
"A lot of the all natural sprays are not that effective," she said. DiMonda said she sees nothing wrong with the Health Departments recommendation. She didn't want to put chemicals on her kids or her pets, she said, so she developed her own spray. She does recommend to re-apply the spray every few hours, or after sweating or swimming, to have the best benefits of keeping ticks away.
However, Berl said while Vermont does have a high incidence of Lyme disease, it is no more than other New England states that also have a high incidence.
"We are not that different from New Hampshire or Maine. Northern New England has seen an increase in cases over the last couple of years," she said. "We tend to have a higher reporting rate. They've reached a maturity level in these states and they're seeing reporting fatigue."
The symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, chills, fever, headache and erythema migrans, a skin rash. Symptoms can appear 3 to 30 days after a tick bit, according to the Vermont Department of Health.
Just because you've been bitten by a tick does not necessarily mean you have Lyme disease, Berl said. Deer ticks spread Lyme disease and both adult and nymphs bite. More nymphs cause disease because they are smaller and less likely to be detected, Berl said. Prompt removal of the tick can help prevent getting sick.
"Not every tick will be infected," she said.
After spending time in the woods, do a tick check on yourself, your children and pets. Wear long sleeves and tuck your pants into socks, as well as using some kind of chemical or all natural spray. Showering after being outside is also recommended to help prevent tick bites, according to the state's health department.
If you are bit, Berl said to remove the tick as soon as possible. When removing the tick, she said to use tweezers or a tick removal device, not your fingers.
"Just apply steady pressure...they do hang on," she said. "If some mouth parts are left, don't try to dig them out. They'll be [absorbed] by the body like a splinter."
DiMonda, who also works as a nurse at The Northshire Medical Clinic, said she has pulled many ticks of individuals already this year. She does not recommend her product, because she didn't imagine the spray would ever become a business. She said the other day she pulled four ticks off of a man working out side.
"I told him to use something, because otherwise, you'll be back with more [ticks]".
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