Second to mosquitoes, ticks are considered a leading carrier of diseases to humans in the United States. Most ticks do not carry disease, but the bites from some ticks can carry Lyme Disease, Colorado Tick Fever and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to name three of the most well-known tick-borne illnesses.
Tick outbreaks follow seasonal patterns, typically from April through September, as tick populations mature, so now is the perfect time to brush up on tick bite prevention and first aid. Here are some helpful tips:
- Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily spotted and brushed off.
- Wear long pants and long sleeves when venturing into brushy and/or wooded areas. Tuck pants into shoes or socks.
- Apply tick repellant before going outside.
- After spending time outside, promptly and thoroughly check yourself, each other and your pets for ticks.
- Consult with your veterinarian before applying tick repellant to your pets.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these additional suggestions to prevent tick bites:
- Walk in the center of trails instead of in the brush.
- Maintain and control the brush around your home.
- Avoid wooded and bushy area with high grass and leaf litter.
- Always shower after being outdoors.
First aid for tick removal is simple, but extremely important. Dr. Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD, from eMedicineHealth.com, offers these informative tips on removing ticks safely.
- First, the tick should be removed as soon as possible to minimize the risk of disease transmission. Do not attempt to remove the tick with your bare hands. Wear gloves, and use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to its head or mouth as possible. Pull up gently until the tick comes free – do not twist or use extreme force because this could sever the head from the body, leaving the mouthparts embedded in the skin. If you are unable to remove the whole tick from the skin, contact your doctor immediately.
- To dispose of the tick, either rinse it down the drain or flush it down the toilet. The doctors at the Mayo Clinic suggest carefully sealing the tick in a jar for your physician in the event symptoms of illness develop.
- Thoroughly cleanse the area of the tick bite with soap and water. Antibiotic first-aid cream can be applied. Monitor the bite for several days to be sure there is no reaction such as a rash or infection.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after removing the tick.
Because tick bites are relatively painless and only infrequently cause localized redness, itching or burning at the penetration site, it’s important to know and recognize the symptoms directly related to tick-borne illnesses. These symptoms include, but are not limited to, flu-like symptoms, fever, numbness, weakness, pain or swelling of the joints and nausea. A “bulls-eye” rash on the skin is a classic symptom of Lyme Disease. If you or a family member experience these symptoms after a tick bite or after spending time in a high-tick-population area, consult your doctor.
For more information about tick bite prevention and the proper use of tick repellent, visit www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/index.html. Be sure to consult your physician if you have questions or concerns about ticks or tick bites.