Summertime means outdoor play, hiking and gardening. But it can also mean tick bites. Ticks are common throughout the United States. They live outdoors in grass, trees, shrubs, leaf piles and wild animals.
Ticks are small, blood-sucking bugs. They can range in size from as small as a pin’s head to as large as a pencil eraser. They have eight legs and can range in color from shades of brown to reddish-brown and black.
Most times tick bites are harmless. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), ticks can carry 12 known types of diseases, including the most popular – Lyme disease. So finding a tick on your body is never fun and should be of concern.
Typical symptoms of tick bites include red spot or rash near the bite site, neck stiffness, headache or nausea, weakness, muscle or joint pain or achiness, fever or chills, swollen lymph nodes. In more serious cases a person may experience pain or swelling at the bite site, a rash, burning sensation, blisters, or even difficulty breathing.
The most important thing to do when you find a tick on your or your child is to remove it. You do not need to take medicine or see a doctor for a tick bite unless you begin developing symptoms or do not want to remove the tick yourself. If you remove the tick yourself, be aware of any unusual symptoms, which might indicate you may have contracted a tick-borne illness as a result of the bite.
Now this all might make you think twice about going outdoors, but following these tips helpful tips from the CDC will reduce your risk for tick bites while maximizing your outdoor summer fun.
1) Avoid ticks as much as possible. They love to hide in wooded and bushy areas with tall grass & leaf litter. When you’re in these types of areas, wear light-colored clothing. You’ll have a better chance of seeing a dark tick crawling on you before it makes its way to your skin. Make sure to wear long pants and tuck them into your socks, which helps ticks them away from your ankles.
2) Protect your skin & clothes from ticks. The Centers for Disease Control suggests using an EPA-approved repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET for several hours of defense. Apply your repellent before doing any yard work, clearing leaves, or participating in any other landscaping activity that carries the risk of tick exposure. Parents should apply repellent for their children, carefully avoiding the eyes, nose and mouth.
You can safeguard your clothes by using an EPA-approved repellent that has permethrin in it. It is not for use on skin and should only be sprayed on clothing and gear, including boots, pants, socks and even tents. You can also find pre-treated clothes available in outdoor/camping stores and places online.
3) Do a full body check! Ticks can ride home on clothing and pets, and attach to a person later, so carefully check your animal companions, coats and backpacks after visiting high-risk areas. Check your entire body for ticks using a mirror and remove any attached ticks. Tick bites are usually painless, so you may not notice a tick without a careful inspection. Parents should check their children for ticks, especially under the arms, around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, around the waist, and in the hair.
4) Put your clothes in the dryer, and tumble them on high heat. Be sure to shower, and to wash and dry your clothing soon after returning home. Research shows many ticks can make it through the washing machine, even when you wash in hot water. Most ticks will die during a cycle in the hot, dry air of your clothes dryer, though
5) If you do find a tick, remove it immediately. Use thin and sharp tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Pull away from the skin, straight up, trying not to bend or twist the tick. Check the bite area to see if you left any of the ticks head or mouthparts still on/in the skin. If so, remove those remnants. Then disinfect the area with soap or rubbing alcohol and apply a topical antibiotic.
Watch for signs of illness, such as rash or fever, and see a health care provider if these symptoms develop. I recommend saving the tick in a sealed plastic baggie in case you need to take with you to a doctor – so they can better figure out the tick type.
Now it’s your turn to share. What are your plans for the summer – are you a camper, a beach-goer or adventure seeker?
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