Warmer days mean that it’s time for picnics, swimming, boating, fishing, camping…and daily tick checks.
By now, you’ve likely heard a lot about tick-borne illnesses. The prevalence of these diseases has increased in recent years, and it’s not only Lyme Disease we have to worry about anymore – there are several other illnesses spread by ticks. As with most illnesses, the best medicine is prevention. You can still enjoy your favorite summer activities while protecting yourself from tick-borne disease.
Emily Hall, MD, HealthPartners Internal Medicine physician at Hudson Hospital & Clinic, has tips about how to handle ticks and the symptoms of tick-borne illnesses to watch for.
Here are some tips:
- Walk in the center of paths so your legs don’t brush against tall grass, bushes or trees.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks to cover your skin when you are in the woods or tall grass.
- Bathe or shower within two hours of coming indoors to find and wash off crawling ticks.
- Conduct a full-body tick check before going to sleep at night.
- Dry clothes on high heat for an hour to kill any remaining ticks.
- For non-pregnant adults, use tick repellents that contain 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and products that contain 0.5 percent permethrin on clothing.
- Buy clothing that is pre-treated with permethrin and maintains that protection through several washes.
If you find an embedded tick on yourself or a family member, remove it as soon as possible following these steps:
- Before removing the tick, do not paint it with nail polish or other substances; it is most important to remove it quickly.
- Use tweezers to grasp the tick right against the skin surface.
- Pull with a constant steady pressure until it is removed.
- After the tick is removed, clean the skin with alcohol or soap and water.
- If you think the tick has been embedded for more than 24 hours, call your doctor after you remove it. Your doctor may want to prescribe a single dose of an antibiotic to prevent infection.
- You may want to keep the tick in a small plastic bag in case you need to show it to your doctor; some types of ticks are much less likely to carry disease.
After you remove a tick, watch for symptoms of tick-borne illness which usually begin three to 30 days after the tick bite. They include:
- A red, expanding rash at the site of the tick bite or on other parts of the body
- Flu-like symptoms including fever, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint aches
- See your doctor if you develop these symptoms (Even if you have had Lyme disease in the past, you can still contract the infection again and may need treatment for a second infection).