The Risks of Ticks
By: Dr. Chelsea Slyker, PharmD, MPH
While tick bites are usually harmless, the small bugs can carry some very serious diseases. The best way to prevent tick borne illness is to avoid being bit, which can be done with a few easy steps.
Though you may encounter ticks year-round they are more active in the summer months, so extra caution should be taken between April and September. They are typically found in grassy wooded areas, so while hiking or camping you should stick to the designated path or wear long pants and sleeves. Beyond covering your skin, there are a few different products you can use to further prevent bites. Permethrin is an insecticide that can applied to clothing and gear to kill ticks that come in contact with it. Insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, OLE, PMD, or 2-undecanone can be applied directly to the skin or clothing to keep ticks away.
After spending time outdoors, you should take a few steps to ensure you don’t bring any ticks inside with you. Check your clothing or tumble dry on high heat to kill any ticks that may have attached themselves.
They will bite animals as well as humans, so check any pets that have been exploring grassy wooded areas. Shower within a couple hours of coming indoors to wash off any unattached ticks, and be sure to check a few commonly bitten areas including:
- Under your arms
- In and around your ears
- Inside your belly button
- Backs of your knees
- In and around your hair and scalp
- Between your legs
- Around your waist
What to do if you find a tick
If you do find a tick that has attached to your skin, you must take the proper measures to safely remove it. Using tweezers, grasp the tick as closely to the skin as possible and remove with steady, even pressure. Once the tick is removed, clean the affected area with soap and water and kill the tick by putting it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet.
Though tick bites are typically harmless, there is a risk of tickborne illness to be aware of. Look for symptoms up to a few weeks after a tick bite such as fever, aches and pains, or rash. If any of these symptoms occur, you should contact your doctor immediately for further evaluation.
For more information please visit https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html