Follow these quick steps to avoid tick bites and Lyme disease as the weather warms. Nuvance Health family medicine doctor-resident explains.
By Dr. Shashowt Ojha, Family Medicine resident, Nuvance Health
Ticks are tiny parasites that can cause not-so-tiny problems. They carry dangerous diseases, such as Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. To stay healthy during months when ticks are out and risk is high, follow these tips:
1: Wear protective clothing.When you're in areas with long grass, piles of leaves, low shrubs or forest areas, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and closed-toe shoes. Tuck your pants into your socks or boots to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs.
2: Use insect repellent.Use an insect repellent that contains DEET or other EPA-approved repellents on your skin and clothing prior to leaving the house. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
3: Check for ticks.
After spending time outdoors, check your skin and clothing for ticks. Pay particular attention to areas such as your scalp, behind your ears, in your armpits and groin. A tick is oval-shaped and flat with six to eight legs. It if is embedded, the head of the tick will be buried into your skin.
If you find a tick, remove it quickly using fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick as this can cause the mouthparts to remain in the skin. Wash the bite area and your hands after removal and never crush a tick with your fingers.
4: Remove ticks quickly.
5: Shower and wash clothes.After being outdoors in areas where ticks are common, take a shower and wash your clothes in hot water to kill any ticks that may be hiding on your skin or clothing.
6: Keep your yard tidy.Ticks normally hide in leaves, grass and shrubs and wait for a passing host to latch on to. That’s why you should keep your yard tidy by mowing the grass regularly and removing any brush or leaf litter. This can help reduce the tick population in your yard.
7. Treat your pets.Make sure your pets are treated with tick preventives and regularly checked for ticks. Pets can bring ticks into your home, which can increase the risk of tick bites.
The bottom line: By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of tick bites and stay healthy during tick season. If you develop symptoms such as fever, headache or a rash after being bitten by a tick, seek medical attention immediately.