Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ticked Off By Ticks?

by Miranda Jacobs
     What’s not to hate about ticks?  They’re parasitic arachnids that feed on our blood and can infect us with deadly diseases.  Even worse, ticks can easily attach to our bodies without being noticed because of their small size and the anesthetic in their saliva that prevents us from feeling the pain of their bite.  And, worse yet again, ticks enjoy living in the beautiful state of South Carolina just as much as we do. They require warmth and humidity for survival, making the entire eastern coast of the United States a perfect location for the bloodsucking creatures. 
     With the warm summer months arriving, many of us will be spending more time outside—which also means more exposure to ticks.  We live in a tick hotspot and should pay careful attention to defending ourselves against ticks.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides plenty of information about ticks on its website at , including how to avoid ticks, what to do if you are bitten by a tick, and what symptoms of tick-borne diseases to look for after a tick bite.

     Here are a few of the ways that the CDC suggests to avoid ticks:
  • The most effective defense against ticks is to avoid going outside altogether, especially wooded areas and tall grass.  But very few of us can avoid going outside, and many of us enjoy leisure and exercise that involve wooded or grassy areas.  So, the next few tips are more realistic.
  • Walk in the center of trails, resisting the urge to diverge from the path when you see a fuzzy caterpillar or a pretty flower.  But keep in mind that ticks can be found anywhere outside, and walking in the center of trails will only lessen your contact with them.
  • Use insect repellent that contains 20% or more DEET.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides plenty of information about insect repellents on its website at , including a list of EPA-registered repellents, how to use repellents safely, and a search tool to help you find a repellent that is right for you.
  • Use products containing permethrin on your clothes, shoes, backpacks, and any other items you wear or carry that ticks could hide in.  Permethrin is an insect repellent that will remain on your clothing through several washes.
  • After coming indoors, check your entire body for ticks, using a mirror to check hidden places.  It is important to check every inch of skin; however, ticks love to attach to body parts that are warm and moist, so the most important places to check are under the arms, in and around ears, in every patch of hair, inside the belly button, between legs, and behind knees.
  • Put your clothes in a dryer on high heat for at least an hour to kill insects.
     If a tick has attached itself to your skin, you must immediately remove it.  There are many ways to remove a tick.  The CDC warns against folklore remedies such as using heat to make the tick detach from the skin or painting the tick with nail polish, because you should remove the tick as quickly as possible rather than waiting for it to detach.  The CDC recommends the following steps using a set of tweezers:
  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure.  Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin.  If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers.  If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
     If you have been bitten by a tick, removed it from your skin, and cleaned the area, your next step is to look for any signs and symptoms of tick-borne diseases.  The CDC lists fever/chills, aches and pains, and rash as the most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses.  If you experience any possible symptoms of a tick-borne disease, see your doctor immediately.
     Two common tick-borne diseases that occur along the eastern U.S. coast are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF).  Lyme disease is spread by the blacklegged tick (or deer tick).  An infected tick usually has to be attached to its host for 36-48 hours or more before Lyme disease can be transmitted to the host.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of checking every inch of your body for ticks!  (RMSF) is spread by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and brown dog tick.  It is the most severe of the tick-borne diseases and can be fatal if not treated within the first few days of symptoms.
     While ticks are a danger throughout the entire year, they thrive during the late spring and summer months.  You should watch out for ticks all year, but be especially careful during warmer months.  Our best defense against ticks is to inform ourselves about them, how to repel them, and what to do when we are bitten by them.


Post a Comment