Sun-kissed cheeks, swimming, sunbathing, gardening, outdoor grilling, and naked feet embracing the sand — these are some of the best parts of summer that you probably experience and observe. However, the summer months are also the booming months for tick populations and Lyme Disease. We all want to enjoy outdoor activities during the summer, but we also want to be safe from these pests and take precautions. If you want to know how to prevent ticks and their bites, then we’ve got your back.
Ticks Time Bomb
Recent media reports have focused on the potential for above-average tick activity this year. The Weather Channel reports a mild winter and early spring combined with high humidity in the summer will contribute to a “tick time bomb.”
What these blood-sucking parasites are
Ticks are tiny, parasitic arachnids (meaning that they are related to spiders). Their sizes range from about 2 to 6 millimeters long and can grow up to 10 millimeters long after feeding. With their size, it isn’t easy to spot them immediately. However, they can grow as big as marble when they suck more blood.
When and where ticks are prevalent
Ticks are prevalent in the summer season because they prefer warm and moist areas of the body. After finding a spot on your body, they will bite into your skin and draw blood. After biting you, ticks will remain attached to your body and might migrate to other parts of your body such as the armpits, groin, or hair. Ticks are also found outdoors, typically in grass, trees, and bushes.
In the summer, people spend more time outdoors. Hence, you need to be careful since you can unknowingly pick up a tick. Moreover, these things may attach themselves to your pet. And from your pet, ticks can migrate to you when you touch or play with them.
Tick bites can be more or less dangerous to different people. If you are allergic to tick bites, you may feel a burning sensation, pain, swelling, rashes, or blisters near the bite site. In severe cases, difficulty in breathing might also be experienced. Ticks can also transmit diseases. Backlegged ticks can cause Lyme disease which can cause severe symptoms such as the following if left untreated:
- Erythema migrans – This is a rash the appear on other areas of the body
- Joint pain – Pain and swelling that primarily affects the knees and can move from one joint to another.
- Neurological problems – People with Lyme disease might develop meningitis, Bell’s palsy, weakness of limbs, and weakened muscle movements after days, months, or even years after getting infected.
Preventing Tick Bites
To avoid the harmful effects of tick bites, several safety measures can be taken to prevent them.
Before going outdoors:
- As much as possible, avoid areas where you expect ticks to be, such as grassy areas, bushes, and wooded areas. You should also avoid interacting with animals that are not your pet.
- Look out for ticks even in your yard. Clean your yard regularly and use a bug spray that is effective against ticks. Do not let your dog play in the grass or play with other pets you do not know.
- Wear long-sleeved tops and pants if you will walk in the woods or grassy areas
- Wearing light clothes will make it easier for you to spot ticks.
- Treat your clothing and gear with 0.5% permethrin after being outside.
After going outdoors
- Check your clothes for ticks and disinfect them before putting them in the laundry. Some ticks may stick on clothing and be carried into your house. You should wash your clothes with hot water and dry them on high heat for several minutes since ticks are vulnerable to high heat drying.
- If you walk your pet outside, examine your pet’s coat and clothes if they have any.
- Comb your hair with a fine-tooth comb to drag ticks out if any are attached to your hair
- Go to the shower right after doing all the steps above. This reduces your risk of getting tick bites and Lyme disease as showering may wash off ticks.
- If you think you went to a possibly tick-infested area, do a full body check on tick-prone body parts. These include the underarms, ears, belly button, knee pit, neck, nape, between the legs, and other areas.
Removing a Tick from the Skin
If you find a tick attached to your skin, be sure to remove it immediately but properly. The earlier you find it, the better. This is because it will take some time for infections to reach your bloodstream. A tick must be in your body for 36 hours before a disease can be transmitted. Thus, removing ticks as soon as possible will prevent you from acquiring any tick-borne diseases.
To remove the tick:
- Wear gloves and use tweezers or forceps to pull the tick away from your skin gently.
- Avoid squeezing or bending the tick because this can leave the parts of the tick in your skin.
- If you suspect that you are bitten, place the tick in a container and put it in a freezer. The doctor can examine the tick in case you develop new symptoms.
- Lastly, wash your hands with warm water and soap. Spray rubbing alcohol afterward. You should also do this when you spot a visible tick bite on your skin.
When to Contact a doctor
Not every tick bite is a reason to seek urgent care. Here are the signs and symptoms that require you to contact your doctor:
- You are not able to remove the tick altogether. As said earlier, the longer the tick stays attached, the risk of getting tick-borne diseases increases.
- You think the tick has been attached for more than 36 hours.
- A small, seemingly harmless red bump may be seen in the tick bite area. However, if it gets larger, go to your doctor immediately.
- You start showing flu-like signs and the symptoms mentioned above.
- You think it is a deer tick (a ubiquitous tick in the Northeast U.S), especially if it is in its tiny nymphal stage
Additional Reading: Diseases Transmitted by Ticks
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