By Teresa Schaeffer
As the weather warms up, bugs come out in full force and the disease spreading tick is one of the worst of the bunch. Don’t let their small size fool you. These creepy crawlies can pack a dangerous bite when it comes to disease.
When most people think of ticks, they think of Lyme disease which is common in the northeast but these pesky bugs can carry other diseases as well including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia. Symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, joint of muscle pain and a “bulls eye” looking rash or a splotchy rash and stomach pain in the case of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
If you find an attached tick:
- Grasp the tick as close as you can to the skin's surface with fine tipped tweezers.
- Slowly and steadily pull straight up and away from the skin, applying steady pressure.
- Check to see if you left any of the tick's head or mouth in the bite.
- Clean the area with soap and water and follow up with triple antibiotic cream.
The best way to avoid Lyme and other diseases is to prevent tick bites. Ticks thrive in tall grass, brush and wooded areas. Avoiding these areas will lower your risk but not completely eliminate possible exposure. Just spending time outside, walking your dog or playing the back yard can bring you into contact with these creepy bugs. If you hike, stay in the center of the trail and away from the tips of branches where ticks gather. Use an insect repellant containing DEET on your skin, clothes and gear.
Ideally kids should wear long clothing to cover their skin to avoid tick bites when playing in these areas, but let's be realistic…that won’t always happen but you can put them in light colors so that ticks are more easily spotted. So do a tick check of their skin and clothing when coming indoors and have them bath or shower before bed. Kids 6 and older can check themselves with adult guidance, but they must check their entire body, not just arms and legs. Ticks prefer warm moist places like the armpits, groin and hair so be sure to thoroughly check their entire body for ticks.
Since ticks can also come in on clothing and gear, be sure to wash and thoroughly dry everything you can. Place clothes, jackets and blankets you do not plan to wash in the dryer on high heat for an hour or more to kill any ticks. If your child develops a bullseye rash or fever after a tick bite, call your doctor right away.