The good weather is here, and as the age old saying goes, “summertime… and the living’s easy.”
And while there exists many treasurable moments to kick back and soak up some good ole’ fashioned, outdoor fun (by way of hiking, swimming, yard work, tossing the ball around, or just hanging around the fire pit), a piece of reality as it exists today is the abundant growth of the tick population that has boomed in recent years.
What does that mean for you? Well, while the living may be easy, we do need to make a conscious effort to give ourselves, our kids, and our pets a good once over to make sure those pesky little insects aren’t latched into our body somewhere. They’re not always easy to spot and the potential risks associated with tick bites can be serious, so a good thorough check is imperative to your general health.
On average, an estimated 30,000 people are infected by tick bites each and every year. That’s no small number. The general thinking in years past is that the existence of ticks is more prevalent in late summer and early fall. However, this season it’s different. Due to New England’s mild winter (this year and last), ticks have actually come out much earlier. While bites from most ticks don’t carry diseases, or cause serious health problems, it’s still important to be aware of the risks ticks pose and consult a medical professional if needed.
Below are key steps you can take to prevent tick bites and some advice on how to recognize if a bite could turn into a potential health risk:
1. Know where ticks live.
Generally, ticks prefer to reside in and around moist and humid environments, including wooded and grassy areas. As a result, ticks may attach to you during outdoor activities – such as walking through brush or leaves.
2. Use a repellent.
When choosing a tick repellent, be aware of the safety parameters associated with each. Repellents containing 20% or more DEET can be applied directly to the skin and protect against insects for several hours. Products that contain permethrin cannot be used on the skin, but can be used on boots, clothing and camping gear.
3. Wear long pants and shirts.
Covering up can prevent ticks from latching on to skin, so wear long pants and sleeves as appropriate. Ticks are generally the size of a poppy seed, so wearing lighter colors can help you spot ticks sooner.
How to check
After enjoying your time outdoors (because our intent is not to scare you from going outside…), make the effort to check these parts of the body for ticks:
1. Under the arms
2. In and around the ears
3. Inside the belly button
4. Back of the knees
5. In and around all head and body hair
6. Between the legs
7. Around the waist
TREATMENT & EVALUATION
If you do find a tick, you’ll want to remove it as quickly as possible. Ticks attached from the skin for less than 24 hours are much less likely to transmit Lyme or other tickborne illness. Here’s how to remove a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
If you develop of any of the below symptoms, you should visit a medical provider. The provider will evaluate the following before deciding on a course of treatment:
- Your symptoms
- The geographic region of the bite
- Additional diagnostic testing, depending on your symptoms and region of the bite
SYMPTOMS OF TICKBORNE ILLNESS
The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses are:
Fever/chills: With all tickborne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
Aches and pains: Tickborne disease symptoms include headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. With Lyme disease you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.
Rash: Lyme disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia can result in distinctive rashes. Click here for descriptions and photos of the different types of rashes
Even if you don’t recall finding a tick, it’s important to be aware of these symptoms and potential linkage to Lyme and other tickborne illness and consult a medical provider as soon as possible for diagnosis and potential treatment.
Convenient Urgent Care Centers around NH, ME, and MA.
If you suspect you’re developing any of the above listed tickborne illness symptoms, you can visit your nearest ConvenientMD location in New Hampshire and Maine to help diagnose and start treatment, if necessary.
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