It’s that time again! The ticks are out in large numbers and are here to stay until late in the fall. Preventing tick bites continues to be the best way to avoid all tick-borne diseases. Whether you prefer natural treatments or purchasing commercial tick repellents, use something every time you go outdoors.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend the use of registered insect repellents that contain 20 percent DEET, Picaridin, IR 3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undercanone ingredients. None of these should be used on infants less than 2 months of age. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and Para-menthane-diol (PMD) should not be used on children less than 3 years old.
There are several “natural” solutions as well. These include using the essential oil from leaves and stems of the wild tomato plant on skin and clothing; essential oils from rosemary, lemongrass, thyme and geraniol plants can be used on skin, lawn and gardens.
It’s important to prevent ticks in your yard as well. Keep your grass short and keep brush cleared around your home. Try to maintain a three-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas, as well as around your patios and play equipment.
Tips to avoid ticks in your yard:
- Keep leaves raked and removed
- Stack wood in a dry area
- Place decks, patios and playground equipment in the full sun and away from the woods.
- Remove old furniture, mattresses and other forms of trash from your yard to prevent ticks from having a place to hide.
These little pests are sneaky. When you, your family and your pets come indoors, check for ticks immediately. Ticks need to be attached to you for 24 hours to transmit disease. Finding them and getting them off as soon as possible is key to remaining healthy. Ticks can hide in your hair, groin, armpits and behind the knees. Always try to shower as soon as possible and change and wash your clothes.
If your clothes are clean but you find ticks, you may want to put them in the dryer for 10 minutes on high. This will kill any ticks.
Pets, especially dogs, are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases. They can be brought in attached to the animal or crawling on them. So it is important to talk to your vet about a tick preventive product for your dogs and cats. Some signs that your pet may be suffering from a tick-borne disease include behavior and/or appetite changes. As a side note, cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any insecticide or repellant to your cat unless it is approved for that usage or you have consulted with your veterinarian.
To remove a tick, use tweezers and grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull slowly and steadily. Some people recommend turning slowly counter clockwise, some say straight out and others upward. The most important part is the slow traction. Avoiding the fast jerk. If the tick pulls apart and the head remains in the skin, don’t worry, it will work its way out over the next week. This does not increase your chance of contracting a disease. After removing the tick, wash the area and your hands with soap and water, and/or rubbing alcohol. Soak the tick in rubbing alcohol, wrap it in tape and throw it in with the trash, or flush it down the toilet.
It is normal to have mild local reaction at the site dark red where the tick was attached usually the size of a pencil eraser, mild redness around this up to about the size of a nickel and some mild swelling like a mosquito bite. These are not signs of Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases.
If you believe that the tick was attached for more than 24 hours and the tick was not a wood tick, you should contact your primary provider or present to Urgent Care as you may be a candidate for prophylactic treatment with doxycycline to decrease your chance of getting ill. Remember, wood ticks do not carry disease. If you develop a bulls eye rash (looks like a target) anywhere on your body, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, or swollen lymph nodes within three to 30 days of a tick bite, please seek medical care as these are signs of a tick borne disease. Lyme disease that goes without treatment can progress to causing joint swelling, heart rhythm changes and neurologic problems.
Doxycycline is recommended as the first line treatment for ALL ages for tick-borne diseases. If you are allergic to this medication, other options do exist. Once you test positive for Lyme disease, you will be positive for months or years despite treatment. This does not mean you have on going disease. And yes you can get any tick borne disease again if you are bitten in the future.
Stay safe, check yourself and loved ones for ticks often and have a great summer!