Tick season is back and it’s getting worse every year. In 2018, almost 60,000 cases of tick-borne disease were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016 the total reported cases were closer to 50,000. For the first time in the United States, a new tick species has been identified and seven new tick-borne germs have been identified in the past two decades.
Compared to all other insects, ticks are responsible for more human disease than any others in the United States. These pesky critters are highly effective in transmitting disease due to their indiscriminate tastes. They feed from a variety of sources, including mammals small and large as well as birds and reptiles. Ticks can pick up diseases from a variety of creatures and transmit them to us. So, let’s discuss protection from those pesky bites.
Here are 10 tips to prevent tick-borne illness:
1. Use an insect repellent that contains at least 20% DEET. It interferes with a ticks’ ability to locate you. The American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC recommends use of insect repellent containing up to 30% DEET for infants over 2 months of age. DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age.
2. Spray clothing and gear with a repellent called permethrin and let dry. It will remain effective for multiple washings. Do not use permethrin on skin.
3. Stick to the center of trails and avoid overhanging brush and tall grass. Ticks like to perch on the edge of grass and low brush waiting for a suitable host to brush by.
4. Where light color clothing to better spot a tick that may be trying to hitch a ride.
5. Consider long sleeves, tucking in your shirt, and taping pant legs into socks to help prevent ticks from reaching your skin.
6. Keep the lawn mowed and vegetation low to decrease tick attraction to your yard.
7. Ticks are found most commonly on the head, neck, underarms and groin, so be sure to carefully inspect yourself if you’ve spent time in tick-infested areas. Showering can make locating ticks easier and a washcloth can dislodge any not attached.
8. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to both clean ticks off and make it easier to find them before they bite you.
9. If a tick is found, clean the area around the tick, and remove it promptly with tweezers or commercial tick removing tools. After removal, disinfect skin to prevent infection.
10. Put dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks after outdoor activities. Also, dry damp clothing thoroughly and tumble dry on high for 10 more minutes.
If you do get bit, it’s valuable to recognize the signs and symptoms of a tick-borne illness quickly. While symptoms vary based on the specific illness, there some signals you can spot:
• High fever, shaking, chills
• Severe headache
• Muscle or joint aches
• Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
• Rash or pus-filled wound at the site of a tick bite
In general, it is recommended to consult your health care provider if any of the above symptoms occur. When you visit your provider be sure to mention that you bit or you were in a tick-infested habitat. Many tick-borne illnesses can be confused with different conditions.
Finally, if you find or remove a tick, don’t crush it as its blood can be dangerous. Also, don’t throw it in the trash or flush it down the toilet as ticks are resilient little critters. Instead, put it in a jar and drown it with alcohol. That way, you can safely kill it and if you do get sick you’ll have it for testing.
Stay safe this tick season. It will be one for the books.
If you are in need of a health care provider, please feel free to set an appointment with one of our primary care providers at the clinics listed below:
• Blue Springs Internal Medicine, 816-228-9841
• Family Medical Care Associates, 816-228-1000
• Oak Grove Medical Clinic, 816-690-6566