Tick Man Dan leads crusade against ticks

·5 min read

If you spend much time in the woods of Pennsylvania, there’s a good chance you are going to encounter ticks.

These small arachnids are annoying and can infect humans with dangerous diseases like Lyme disease and deer tick virus.

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell announced that “Lyme disease has been present in all 67 counties for some time, and unfortunately, the prevalence of the very serious Deer Tick Virus appears to be increasing in some tick populations.”

What that means is that it’s important for outdoorspeople to have a plan in place to reduce their chances of getting a tick bite.

I recently had a telephone conversation with a man who has made tick awareness and education his life’s mission. Dan Wolff, who lives near Boston, describes himself as “Tick Man Dan.”

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An adult female deer tick walks on a counter top Oct. 27, 2021, in Somerset County.
An adult female deer tick walks on a counter top Oct. 27, 2021, in Somerset County.

After growing frustrated at the number of ticks he'd find on his clothing every time he went deer hunting, he started thinking about ways to help others remove these bugs.

“I started getting covered with ticks,” he said about being frustrated while spending time deer hunting about 15 years ago. He said they would come off his clothes and wind up in his truck and home.

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“My goal was then to gather information to make the best decision for myself, my family and my pets, and it developed into something bigger than that. My mission is to help people through education, resources and products to eliminate and reduce the risk of tick bites and the subsequent tick-born illnesses.”

The expert advice has been to remove ticks with tweezers, but they aren’t always a practical way to reach the ticks that can lodge in difficult places on humans and pets.

In 2014, Wolff invented TickEase, a stainless-steel device that has a narrow tweezer edge on one side and a v-shaped scooping device on the other. His invention allows users to pop off the ticks without squeezing them.

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The device make sense. It’s an easier tool to use than standard household tweezers and the opposing side has a clever design to slide under an embedded tick to lift it off.

“It’s the easiest, simplest, safest and most effective method for popping ticks off when they are embedded,” he explained about his patented product.

He does educational talks as well as selling his variety of products online at TickEase.com and through a variety of stores like Chewy, Amazon and Sportsman’s Warehouse.

“If you do it correctly, you can get (a tick) without tearing, squeezing or popping that tick,” he said about concerns of leaving some parts of the tick and its fluids behind using other methods.

The specialty tool sells for $9.99 to $11.99 depending on the website and there’s also a kit of his tick products for $23.99.

In addition to the removal tool, the kit includes antibiotic ointment pads and information about identifying the tick and how to have it tested at research laboratories. The kit is like a first-aid kit regarding ticks as it answers all the questions you might have about what to do next. “I call it 'Tick Man Dan in the Can,'" Wolff said about the resources that are included.

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The tick removal tool has taken off and the products are selling across the country. He said the TickEase was featured on "Good Morning America" and it led to about 10,000 units being sold. “It was awesome,” he said about the response to the brief television segment.

He also created bandanas for dogs to wear in the woods that are treated with permethrin, a chemical that kills ticks. He said it’s to supplement your dog’s flea and tick medicine regimen as the bandana reaches the places your canine will first encounter ticks on their neck and shoulders as they walk through grassy areas. “It’s an extra layer of protection,” he said.

“I live and breathe ticks on a day-to-day basis,” he said about becoming obsessed with them, including getting a tick tattoo on his leg. He’s always reading research and studying the behavior and life cycle of ticks in a “know thy enemy in a better way” style.

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With the ongoing changes in the climate leading to more ticks, he said there’s a growing need for education and resources to prevent tick bites.

The DEP offers the following advice to those wanting to take precautions about ticks outdoors:

  • Apply tick repellents containing permethrin to clothing and EPA-registered insect repellents such as DEET to exposed skin before entering the outdoors. Reapply as needed according to product label instructions.

  • Wear light-colored outer clothing and tuck shirts into pants, and pants into socks.

  • Walk in the centers of trails, and avoid wooded and brushy areas with low-growing vegetation and tall grasses that may harbor ticks.

  • After returning home, remove all clothing, take a shower, and place clothing into the dryer on high heat to kill any lingering ticks. Examine gear such as backpacks for ticks.

  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand or full-length mirror, including hidden areas such as the scalp, ears, armpits, belly button, and between the legs.

  • Check over any pets exposed to likely tick habitats each time they return indoors.

  • If a tick is found attached to your skin, use tweezers to remove it carefully, including the head. Monitor for symptoms and contact your doctor with any questions.

Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at bwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Deer ticks inspire man to educate, reduce bites and illnesses