Tick season is on the way. As tick populations grow and spread across the country, their prevalence is increasing the public’s risk for some troubling diseases. Of these diseases, the American Academy of Dermatology says, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever are among the most serious.
“Although most ticks do not carry disease, it’s important to be mindful of these risks and keep an eye out while you’re outdoors,” said board-certified dermatologist Lindsay Strowd, MD, FAAD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “If you notice a tick crawling on you or attached to your skin, remove it immediately to prevent any potential infection.”
If you find a tick attached to your skin, don’t panic. Several tick removal devices are available on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick effectively. Here’s what to do.
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.
4. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
Should You Test Your Tick?
You don’t need to go to the trouble of having your tick tested for an infection. Positive results don’t necessarily mean you’ve been infected, and negative results don’t mean you weren’t bitten by a tick you never saw. Besides, if you are infected, you’ll develop symptoms before the tick’s test results come in and those symptoms need to be treated right away.
Prevent Tick Bites
1. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid walking through heavily wooded and brushy areas with tall grass.
2. If you must walk through heavily wooded areas, wear long pants and long sleeves. Pull your socks up over your pants, and tuck your shirt into your pants to prevent ticks from crawling up your body. It’s also a good idea to wear light-colored clothes so that ticks can be spotted easily.
3. Use insect repellent that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing. Make sure to follow the product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, making sure to avoid the hands, eyes and mouth.
4. Examine your skin after spending time in heavily wooded or brushy areas. Conduct a full-body tick check to make sure that no ticks are crawling on you. Since ticks prefer warm, moist areas, be sure to check your armpits, groin and hair. You should also check your children and pets, as well as any gear you used outside.
“If you develop any symptoms within a few weeks after a tick bite, such as a rash, fever or body aches, see a board-certified dermatologist,” said Dr. Strowd. “Make sure you tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred and where you most likely acquired the tick.”
Be safe out there! Stay tuned for next week for symptoms and treatment of tick related diseases.