With warmer weather coming and summer on the way, we tend to spend more time in the great outdoors. With this, comes the need to be conscious of ticks. There are many diseases spread by ticks including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, and Ehrlichiosis. Such diseases can cause mild illness that can be treated at home, or serious illness that require hospitalization. Ticks live in grass and brush, and they feed on human and animal blood. Ticks can easily brush off the grass onto your skin when you are outdoors.
Common places that ticks are found are in warm places such as the underarms, under the socks, behind ears, around the waist or in the belly button, under tight-fitting clothes, and in or around the hair. It is important to check these areas for ticks after spending time outdoors. Tickborne disease is more likely to occur if a tick has been feeding on you for two or more days, making it very important to check frequently and remove them as soon as you find one.
When removing a tick, it is important to pull the tick from your skin with steady pressure, rather than twisting or jerking. You may use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick as closely to the skin as possible to help with the removal. After removing the tick, you should wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water. You may dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet. It is also important to keep the tick in a sealable plastic bag or container and store in the freezer for a few weeks. This may be important if you develop certain symptoms, the doctor may want to evaluate the tick. Symptoms of tickborne disease include rash, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and pain. If these symptoms occur, your physician should be notified. Treatment of tickborne disease is based on symptoms, history of exposure to ticks, and in some cases, blood test results. Most tickborne diseases can be treated with a course of antibiotics.
The best way to protect yourself from tickborne disease is to avoid ticks. Stay away from moist, cool places under ground cover, brush or leaves where ticks live. Get rid of tick habitat in your yard by clearing away brush, litter and wood piles. Prune tree branches to let sunlight in, and keep your grass mowed short. When you hike or spend extended time outdoors, stay on trails and out of the brush. Wear long pants, socks and shoes, and tuck your pants into your socks. Also apply an insect repellent that contains DEET. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and wash the repellent off your skin when you return indoors.
The Montgomery County Health Department loves taking care of your family, and works every day to protect, promote and improve health in our community. Please call 573-564-2495 for further information or visit our Facebook page.