For many of us the summer months mean heading outdoors to enjoy picnics, camping and hiking. But ticks are also getting active this time of year, too!
Tick-borne diseases in the U.S. are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 40,000 cases of tick-borne diseases were reported in 2015, more than three times the number in 1995. There is no vaccine to prevent tick-borne diseases, so preventing tick bites is key. Here are some summer safety tips to keep the ticks away.
It seemed at one time that the only people who were exposed to ticks were outdoorsy types like hikers, hunters and farmer. If you avoided the tall grass or woods, chances were slim that you would get a tick bite. As the CDC statistic cited, the odds of getting a tick bite have increased exponentially, and anyone can be exposed to ticks by stepping foot outside. Not to be alarmist, but if you to garden, hike, or walk in the park, you may be exposed to ticks and tick bites.
Tips to limit your risk
When you head outdoors:
· Avoid wooded areas or areas with brush, tall grass or piles of fallen leaves.
· If you go hiking, stay on the trail; avoid going “off trail” even if you are tempted to take a short cut.
What to wear:
· Cover up! Choose long pants, long-sleeved shirts, shoes rather than sandals. The less skin you expose to ticks the safer you will be.
· Tuck in! Don’t leave gaps where ticks can crawl in and hide. That includes tucking in pant legs into the top of your shoes or boots or even socks. Tuck your shirt into your pants, too.
· Wear a hat! It protects your scalp from ticks, as well as the sun.
· Consider using insect repellent. DEET can be used on your skin. Always avoid contact with your eyes and mouth.
· Pre-treated clothing that contains permethrin discourages ticks from crawling on in the first place.
After being outside
· Take a bath or shower soon after getting back inside. The sooner the better: within two hours if possible. You will be better able to spot any ticks that made it past your clothing barrier.
· Do an inspection! Use a mirror to check out all the nooks and crannies on your body where ticks like to hide. Be sure to check under your arms, in your ears, on your scalp, even inside your belly button! If it is feasible, check your buddy and have your buddy check you.
· Inspect any pets for ticks. Brush your dog or other pet and check behind their ears and under and around their leg areas, too. It’s a good idea to give your dog anti-tick treatments each month.
· Check all bags and outdoor equipment. Ticks can hitch a ride!
· Throw your clothes in the drier! High heat for at least 10 minutes can kill ticks that have latched on to dry clothing. For dirty or wet clothing – wash in hot water and then dry until the clothing is completely dry and warm.
If you get a tick bite
If you don’t know how to safely remove a tick from your body using tweezers, talk with your healthcare professional. Wash the affected area with soap and water, and rub with alcohol. Keep the tick in a ziplock baggie in case it needs to be tested if you present any symptoms. If you are concerned about the possibility of having contracted a Lyme or any other tick-borne disease, seek medical help right away.
Know that time is of the essence. The most obvious sign of a tick bite is a red spot or bulls-eye like rash which may or may not present soon after exposure. Other signs are lethargy, a stiff neck, a headache, nausea, muscle or joint achiness, and fever. If you present any symptoms call your medical professional as soon as you can. The sooner you get treatment, the better off you will be. Your urgent care medical professional may recommend precautionary antibiotic treatment.
An urgent care clinic can handle tick bites and all other health issues. Come see us at Patient Care Now Urgent Care in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. We are open from 8 am – 8 pm, seven days a week. Owned and operated by board-certified emergency medicine providers, we pride ourselves in providing a seamless medical experience to our patients. Call us at (267) 202-6433 for all your urgent care needs, or use our online check-in form.