Here in the U.S. we’re well into summer, which for most of us means cold drinks, hot grilled foods, and hours lounging by the pool. Unfortunately, it can also mean exposure to less enticing aspects of summer like mosquito bites, summer colds, and pollen allergies. And, perhaps worst of all, risk of tick bites.
Unfortunately, tick bites are all too common. Those creepy-crawly creatures thrive in the grass, trees, shrubs, and leaf piles – basically all of the places we like to spend our summers. Most of the time, tick bites are harmless, both to humans and our pets, but every so often, they can cause us no end of troubles. Most of these troubles come in the form of allergic reactions, and even more rarely, in the form of diseases like Lyme.
But don’t let that stop you from enjoying your summer. There’s a reason you’ve heard the phrase “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so many times, and that’s because it’s true. The best approach to dealing with tick bites is to not get them in the first place. Be aware of where you’re likely to get bitten, and be careful in those areas. At home, keep your lawn mowed, create a tick barrier between your yard and your bushes or shrubbery, and if deer are an issue for you, install a deer fence. If you go hiking, stay on marked trails. Ticks are more likely to live in the trees, brush, and high grasses, so the middle of the paths are less likely to have any ticks.
If you are going hiking or spending a lot of time outside where you know ticks are likely, take precautions with your clothing as well. Wear light-weight, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Tuck your pants into your socks so ticks can’t get to your skin that way. And it should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – wear close-toed shoes, no sandals, and definitely don’t go barefoot. And wear insect repellent. Make sure to look for one that’s rated by the EPA so you can be sure it’s safe to use on your skin.
When you come back inside, check carefully for ticks. Check yourself, check your children, check your clothing, check your pets. Wash your clothes immediately. Ticks like to burrow into warm, moist places, so pay special attention to your armpits, groin, and hair when you’re checking yourself and your children. Fortunately, ticks are easier to find than other bugs. Unlike, for example, a mosquito, ticks stay on your skin after they’ve bitten you and started to drink from you, so you should be aware of any bites you get. Once you’ve checked your clothing and yourself, take a shower. This will help you dislodge any ticks that are still unattached and haven’t bitten yet, and studies have shown immediately showering to be effective at preventing Lyme disease if you have been bitten.
If you do find a tick on yourself, don’t panic. It usually takes Lyme disease about 36 hours to work its way from the tick to your system, so finding and removing ticks as early as possible is key in its prevention. There are a lot of old wives’ tales about how best to do this, but according to the CDC , the easiest way is still the best way. Use a sharp pair of tweezers, grab the tick firmly by the head, and pull firmly, but still gently enough so you don’t actually pull the head off of the body. If the mouthpieces are left behind, it’s ok. They don’t transmit Lyme diseases by themselves, and they’ll work themselves out of your skin within a few days. Once you’ve removed the tick, wash the area and your hands thoroughly. Keep an eye on the area for the next two weeks, watching specifically for a red rash that spreads. If you see this rash, call your doctor immediately or come see us at MedCheck.
Tick bites don’t have to wreck your summer fun. Use this map from the CDC to find out what types, if any, of ticks live in your area of the country. Then use these tips to prevent and remove ticks, and head outside!