This summer, you’ve most likely heard more about ticks than you have in years. This is because it has been one of the worst seasons for tick bites and tick-borne illnesses. Many instances of children and adults suffering from tick bites occurred here on Long Island – even in places that didn’t have ticks in the past.
Because of the growing tick population and the serious diseases carried by them, we have put together some important guidelines on how to prevent tick bites and what to do if you or your children ever get one.
How do you prevent tick bites?
If you’re like most people, you’re bound to be outdoors. While the best way to prevent ticks is to avoid particularly wooded and brushy areas with lots of high grass and leaf litter, that’s not always an option – and not always the only places where you’ll run into a tick. You can get a tick from just walking across your yard and gardening.
- Cover up: Wear long sleeves and pants, and tuck your pants into your socks in high wooden areas. (Since ticks don’t jump, they usually latch on to your ankles or the lower half of your body.)
- Wear light colors: This will help you to easily discover if a tick is on you.
- Shower and change: If you’ve been in an environment where there is a high-risk of attracting ticks, try to shower immediately. Ticks can survive in water, unfortunately, but taking a shower will increase the odds of finding any on your body or in your hair and possibly washing them away. Also, if a dryer is available, throw your clothes into it; ticks are prone to drying out quickly, so a dry cycle could kill them off.
- Check your dog: Ticks are prone to getting attached to dogs and burrowing down into their fur. Be sure to do a thorough check of your dog anytime they come in the yard, and especially if they went on a hike with you or were running through the woods/fields. If you are especially concerned about them being at high-risk, give them a bath.
- Stay on the sunny side of your yard: Since ticks dry out quickly, they tend to stay near shady and covered areas. To reduce exposure to ticks, try to stay in the middle of your yard when hanging out for BBQs or if your kids are playing.
- Use tick repellent: For best results, look for repellents with Permethrin as the primary ingredient. Clothing treated with Permethrin can repel ticks and mosquitoes for weeks, even if the clothes have been washed.
- Always check for ticks thoroughly: Even by following these measures to prevent ticks, you can still get bit and be exposed to Lyme Disease and serious viruses such as the Heartland virus and Bourbon virus, which can be fatal and have been discovered in ticks in recent years.
How do you check for ticks?
First and foremost, know what to look for, and then try a systematic approach by starting from the bottom and working your way up. Check those hard to see areas with a mirror and double-check warm spots on the body (your arm pits and behind your knees), as well as crevices (behind your ears, between your toes, and in your belly button). Also, thoroughly check your hair by using a fine-tooth comb.
What do you do if you find a tick bite?
If you find a tick on you or your child, to treat the tick bite, use a fine-tipped tweezer to pull the tick straight out, being careful not to twist or jerk the tick, as parts can break off and remain in the skin. Once the tick has been removed, clean the bite area with alcohol and then wash with soap and water.
If removing a tick makes you a bit nervous, make a beeline to the nearest STAT Health office, where our doctors can help remove it for you. If you remove it on your own, we recommend that you still make a trip to the office as a precaution to have the bite area double-checked and tested if necessary.
Left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system, so don’t ignore any suspicious symptoms. Within a few weeks of removing a tick, be on the lookout for any warning signs, particularly a bullseye-shaped rash or fever.
Be safe out there and if you have any doubts, be sure to come in to see us at STAT Health!