Avoid Ticks and Tick-borne Illnesses
A few simple actions can prevent ticks from becoming attached to you.
JEFFERSON CITY- While preparing for fun in the sun this summer you also should take time to brush up on tick bite prevention. A few simple actions to discourage ticks from attaching to you will help you avoid contracting a tick-borne disease.
While a feeding tick doesn’t cause much discomfort and doesn’t eat much, there are several reasons to be concerned if one of these small, crawly creatures gets attached to you. Ticks can be carriers of several diseases, including tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease. While not common every year, a few Missourians become ill from tick bites. In the days and weeks following a tick bite look for the following symptoms
- Swelling at the site of the bite. In Lyme disease a raised, target-shaped rash begins to develop within a few days, eventually reaching several inches in diameter.
- Unexplained flu-like symptoms; fever, headaches, body aches, dizziness
- Any unusual rash.
Most people who are infected with a tick-borne disease have symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms are mild, but they should not be ignored. If you know you’ve been bitten by a tick and symptoms appear, it’s best to consult a doctor and mention the recent tick bite.
Protective clothing should be your first line of defense against ticks. When outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and boots with your pants tucked into socks or boots. Rubber bands, blousing bands or tape can be used to secure the cuffs of your pants.
Anytime you are in a tick-infested area, check for ticks. Once indoors, remove and wash your clothing and check your body thoroughly for ticks. Look closely; “seed” ticks smaller than a pinhead can be difficult to detect.
Most tick-transmitted diseases are not transferred to the host until the tick has been feeding for some time and is full. The earlier the tick is located and removed, the lower the chance of being infected with a tick-borne disease. When you are active outdoors, never allow more than four to eight hours to pass without a thorough tick inspection.
If you do find a tick, prompt, proper removal is a must. It is important to remove the tick alive and intact. Secondary infections from improperly removed ticks are much more common than tick-born diseases.
Follow these four steps to remove a tick that is already attached:
- Disinfect the area of attachment with alcohol;
- Grasp the tick firmly as close to the head as possible. If you use your fingers, cover them with tissue or rubber gloves. Tweezers or forceps also may be helpful. Use only as much pressure as necessary. Squeezing an engorged tick can force material from the tick into your skin.
- Remove the tick with a firm outward movement. Never jerk or twist the tick when removing it. It is important that the mouth parts remain attached to the tick, not left embedded in the skin.
- Dispose of the tick properly and disinfect the bite area again. Disposal methods recommended include dropping them in alcohol or crushing them with your shoe heel or between two rocks, but never with your fingers.
Although less common than tick-borne diseases, some people have allergic reactions to tick bites. Generally removing the tick alleviates the symptoms.