I’ve heard many questions and concerns raised recently about tick bites. Certainly with summer upon us more and more people are enjoying some of our good weather by going out for walks in the woods, hiking, and other general outdoor activities. While the concern for ticks is real it shouldn’t prevent us from enjoying the full range of activities available to us here in the Northeast.
The real concern over ticks is when they carry viral diseases that are infectious to humans. The majority of ticks, however, carry no disease. Still, it’s best to avoid them when at all possible. Ticks are often found in bushes and tall grasses, so if following a trail stay in the middle. There are many natural formulations of insect repellent out there, but if purchasing a chemical repellent it should contain at least 20-30% DEET. Any permethrin product should be applied to clothing and gear, avoiding the skin.
After returning from the outdoors you should do a thorough check of your entire body including using mirrors to check your back. If you find one, use tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin as possible and remove the entire tick intact. Clean the bitten area as well as your hands. Don’t try any remedies that would cause the tick to fall off on its own. This is just prolonging your exposure to the tick. Furthermore, never crush a tick. You risk releasing the infectious virus that may be living inside.
If you develop fevers or chills any time in the few weeks following your tick bite then make sure you are seen by your doctor promptly. Other signs that are just as concerning are persistent headaches, fatigue and muscle aches. Watch out for the characteristic “target lesion” rash that looks like a red spot surrounded by another ring of red. In fact, any rash after a tick bite should be evaluated by your doctor. Regardless of your symptoms time is of the essence. You should be seen as soon as you develop any concern.
While diseases like Lyme disease have very serious consequences, treatment is far easier than you think. If seen within 3 days of a bite you can receive a one time prophylactic dose of antibiotic that may be sufficient to stave off any illness. There are still options if you fall outside that time range. Whatever your situation, vigilance and preparedness will serve you well. Enjoy our summer while we have it.