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By: Toni Schklar
From April through September, ticks are most active and pose the greatest risk of infection to humans.
Those of us in the Tristate area are in a heavily populated tick area. In fact, we have the opportunity to be exposed to the:
- American Dog Tick that may transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever;
- Deer Tick that may transmit Lyme Disease;
- Brown Dog Tick, which may transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever;
- The Lone Star Tick, which may transmit Tularemia.
Before 2002 there was a Lyme disease vaccine. The vaccine manufacturer discontinued making the vaccine because of low consumer demand. It is important to know that if you were vaccinated for Lyme disease, protection diminishes over time and you are probably no longer protected.
Please enjoy your time in the outdoors – just remember to take appropriate steps to protect yourself against ticks.
If you find a tick
Remove the tick as soon as it is noticed. Research at Ohio State University indicates that transmission of disease organisms from a tick begins approximately 24 hours after a tick begins feeding on a human. The longer the feeding continues, the greater the potential for infection.
Proper removal is important for two reasons: 1) intact removal of the tick (head and body) helps keep disease agents contained with the tick, and 2) if it becomes necessary to identify the tick, it needs to be in the very best condition possible. There are many non-approved methods for removing a tick (coat the tick body in nail polish or Vaseline; cover the tick body with alcohol or gasoline, etc). These methods of removal risk causing the tick to regurgitate (vomit) into the human skin and expose the human to greater risk of disease transmission.
The following tick removal method is recommended as consistently successful by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
Remove the tick with fine tipped tweezers by grasping the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the head of the tick to avoid leaving the head in the skin. After removal, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water, or alcohol, or Betadine.
Preserve the removed tick by wrapping it in a damp (not wet) paper towel and placing it in a zip lock baggy. Write the date on the baggy and then refrigerate it. The goal is to keep the tick hydrated so identification of the type of tick can be confirmed at a later date if symptoms of infection begin.
Symptoms of infection
- Fever/chills: Onset and severity of symptoms varies by individual.
- Aches and pains: Headache, fatigue and muscular aches are common. With Lyme disease, joint pain may also occur. The severity and time of onset for these symptoms can depend on the disease type and the individual’s personal tolerance level.
- Rash: May appear 3-30 days after the initial tick bite and typically occurs before the onset of fever. Each tick has a unique rash associated with it, so it is important to note what the rash looks like, the size, and location(s). Usually there is a rash at the site where the tick bite occurred and there may be additional sites immediately, later, or not at all.
With the onset of symptoms, it is important to see your physician. Take the preserved tick with you to assist the physician in identifying what type of tick you were bitten by and what appropriate treatment will entail. In some circumstances, it is necessary to send the tick to a special lab for accurate identification.
Most common treatment is antibiotics, rest, and treatment of symptoms such as medicines for aches and fever.
Minimize exposure, be proactive
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Repel ticks with a repellent that is safe for you as an individual. “DEET” and “Permethrin” are popular; however, the Environmental Protection Agency can also suggest other registered repellents. (http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/).
- Inspect pets daily to be certain they haven’t carried a tick inside on their fur or have a tick imbedded in their skin. Check with your veterinarian for the best way to protect your pet from ticks.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Conduct a full body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in the hair.
- Examine gear. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and then attach to a human later. Carefully examine coats, umbrellas, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high for an hour to kill any ticks that may have been overlooked during a visual inspection.