For a lot of people, spending time outdoors is a favorite pastime. Hiking, gardening, playing in the backyard, and walking pets outside are great ways to get exercise while enjoying nature and fresh air. While there are a lot of precautions we must take before going outside such as ensuring we are wearing proper clothing and have adequate sun protection, we also need to ensure we are protecting ourselves from the harm of bugs, specifically, ticks. Tick Season usually takes place during the warmer months. It is also when the tick population is at its peak. We must be proactive to ensure we are staying safe from tick bites and tick-borne diseases.
What are ticks
Ticks are parasitic insects that feed on warm-blooded hosts such as animals and humans. They carry numerous diseases that can cause major health concerns for humans. These diseases can spread when the tick bites its host. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports over 50,000 cases of tick-borne diseases a year. When a tick finds a host, it buries its head under the skin and will remain there while it feeds.
Where do ticks live?
Ticks can be found anywhere in the United States. They typically live in wooded areas but they can be found almost anywhere outside. They do not fly, but they can be carried on the bodies of animals such as deer or even pets. It’s important to stay mindful of ticks even when doing tasks in your own back yards such as landscaping and gardening.
What diseases come from ticks?
There are a variety of diseases that can come from a tick bite. Not every tick bite causes infection but it is important to know the warning signs and symptoms of some tick-borne illnesses. Some diseases caused by ticks include:
- Lyme Disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Colorado tick fever
- Tick Paralysis
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria that is typically carried through ticks. The CDC estimates there are over 300,000 cases of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is associated with arthritis and can affect the skin, joints, heart, or nervous system. When Lyme disease first appears, it can be in the form of a skin rash that is shaped like a bullseye around the original tick bite. It then moves to a phase that includes fever, headache, stiff neck, and fatigue. Lyme disease can go untreated for months due to the fact that some patients may not feel the initial symptoms. In the long term, Lyme disease that was untreated can cause swollen joints and difficulty concentrating.
How do I avoid getting tick bites?
There are a few preventative measures that we can take in order to avoid being bitten by a tick. These measures also help to reduce the risk of being bitten by other bugs such as mosquitoes. Here are a few things we can do to reduce the risk of tick bites:
- Spray your clothing with permethrin, an insecticide that can be purchased at lawn and garden stores.
- Use insect repellent that contains DEET. Be sure to follow directions to ensure proper use and to avoid overuse. If not used correctly, insect repellents may cause harm.
- Wear protective clothing such as closed-toed shoes and long pants. Ensure that the sleeves are tight around the ankles and wrists so that insects cannot easily crawl underneath the clothing.
- After spending time outdoors, throw your clothes in the drier for at least 15 minutes. This should minimize the possibility of ticks living on your clothes
- Scan your body for ticks that have bitten or attached to the body. The high-risk areas include the groin, armpits, and back of the knees.
Removing a tick
Even after taking precautions, you may still encounter a tick that has attached itself to your body. If this occurs, the CDC suggests you follow the steps below to ensure a clean removal.
- Use clean tweezers to grasp the body as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull upwards with steady and consistent pressure. DO NOT yank or quickly pull at the tick. This could cause pieces of the mouth to become lodged in the skin
NOTE: If this occurs, clean the bite area and allow the skin to heal. Watch closely for any signs of infection.
- After removal of the tick, clean the bite area and your hands thoroughly with alcohol or soapy water.
- Dispose of the tick by drowning it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed container, or flushing it down the toilet. DO NOT crush the tick with your hands.
Post-tick treatment and follow-up
Monitor the area for possible signs of infection. Symptoms such as nausea, fever, and body aches may appear weeks after the initial bite. If you do visit a doctor for these symptoms, be sure to mention that you have been bitten by a tick so further testing can be done.
Early detection of infectious diseases is the key to successful treatment and recovery. Visit https://www.ccmhhealth.com/infectious-diseases/ to learn more about how our providers can help you after a tick bite.
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