A Little Health... Ticks!

With summer in full force, people are headed to the mountains to hike, fish, camp, climb, etc.  It is important while you are out enjoying nature’s beauty to be mindful of certain dangers no matter how small.  Even as small as a tick.

Ticks are arthropods, like spiders, and have over 800 species worldwide.  Ticks are the leading carriers of diseases to humans in the United States and are second only to mosquitoes worldwide.  There are two main families of ticks, hard ticks and soft ticks.  Hard ticks have a hard plate and feed for hours to days.  Disease transmission occurs near the end of the meal.  Soft ticks have more rounded bodies and feed for less than an hour.  Disease transmission can occur within the first minute after the bite.  Their bites tend to be more painful.  The most common diseases transmitted by ticks include Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
How can you prevent tick bites?
  • Avoid grassy areas and shrubs.
  • Avoid tick season completely by staying away from the outdoors from April to September (not likely going to happen).
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can easily be seen.
  • Tuck pants into boots or socks (sure to be a fantastic fashion statement)
  • Apply insect repellant specifically designed to repel ticks. 
  • Promptly check for ticks after spending time outdoors.
  • Make sure to treat pets with flea and tick repellants.  

So, how will you know if a tick has bitten you?  You may see the tick.  However, often times you won’t see the tick at all.  Other things you may notice include itching, redness or burning at the site.  If disease transmission occurred, you will develop symptoms within a couple of days to weeks, which includes symptoms similar to the flu. 

Now, what should you do if a tick has bitten you?  If the tick is visible, you will want to attempt to remove it.  Long standing tradition has taught us to attempt to suffocate the tick using Vaseline, toothpaste, or other occlusive agent.  This can still be used with caution, because disease can still be transmitted while you are waiting for the tick to burrow out.  If you feel confident to do so, you may attempt to remove the tick with tweezers.  Using the tweezers, carefully flip the tick onto it’s back.  The key is then to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and apply gentle pressure until it comes free.  Avoid twisting and turning, as this could result in the head and mouthparts breaking off and remaining in your skin.  Once removed, flush it down a toilet, because crushing it could release disease.  When in doubt of your abilities to remove it carefully, seek a health care professionals help.  And, it is a good idea to consult a health care professional to discuss any treatment that may be needed.

So, what’s the good news?  The good news is most tick bites are probably harmless and won’t cause any problems.  But it is always better to be safe than sorry.


Buddy Rooster said...

I've always heard that once you remove a tick from your skin, you should stick it in a ziploc bag and save it. Then, should you get sick, you can have the tick tested for disease.

Jen said...

Buddy, I've never heard that. It wouldn't hurt to save it, but the test to check for disease can just as easily be run on a blood sample from you.


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