No one likes ticks. They crawl on us, bury their mouth parts in our skin and they suck our blood. What’s to like? To make matters worse, they can also transmit bloodborne diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, and neither of them should be taken lightly. The best way to prevent either disease is to stop ticks before they bite. Here are some tips on how you can do that:
- Wear protective clothing when practical (long sleeves and pants). Clothing should be light-colored to make ticks more visible. When hiking, wear a long-sleeved shirt tucked into pants, long pants tucked into high socks and over-the-ankle shoes to keep ticks out.
- Products containing permethrin, which kills ticks rather than merely repelling them, can be applied to clothing and equipment but not directly to skin. Garments must be allowed to dry thoroughly before wearing. Clothing and tents pre-treated with permethrin are available, and the protection can remain active through several washings. Be sure to follow label directions.
-Insect repellents also reduce the risk of being bitten. When outdoors, use insect repellant containing 20 percent to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. Follow the directions on the label. Other repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency can be found at http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/.
- Ticks are usually found on vegetation close to the ground. In addition to regular mowing, avoid wooded or bushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter and walk in the center of trails.
- Check yourself at least every two hours for ticks when outside for extended periods of time. Pay special attention to areas in and around your hair, ears, armpits, groin, navel and backs of the knees. Promptly remove a tick if one is found. The sooner a tick is removed, the less chance it will transmit a disease to its host. If you find a tick, grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull it straight out. Do not crush or puncture the tick and try to avoid touching the tick with your bare hands. Thoroughly disinfect the bite area and wash your hands immediately after removal. And be sure to also examine pets and gear, as ticks can ride into the home on animals, coats, backpacks and blankets, etc.
Symptoms of tick-borne disease can include any unusual rash and unexplained flu-like symptoms, including fever, severe headaches, body aches and dizziness. Prompt treatment with antibiotics can prevent serious illness or even death. See your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of these symptoms.