Be Aware – It’s Tick Season

We see the most tick-borne diseases early in summer months like May, June, and July, but the season really lasts all the way into fall. Early in the season is the most important time to take extra precautions to prevent those tick bites.

Vermont employees: If you think you have a tick bite, be sure to get checked out in the National Life Health and Wellness Center as soon as possible.

Here are some tidbits about Ticks.

Where can we find Ticks? They live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas and they also can live on pets. So it’s important to check your pets. Ticks can jump on your pet and bring them inside the home and crawl around wherever they please. Especially if your pet is treated, the tick might jump on your pet and then if they hop on your bed or something like that at nighttime the tick will jump right off and can attach to you.

What do we do if you find out we have a tick?  What do they look like?  How would we know if we have one on our body or pet?  They are really small. They can be one or two millimeters, the size of a poppy seed. As they engorge with blood they get bigger so you do need to check regularly. Check your pets every day, check yourself every day, if you are outdoors in your yard, in the woods, you want to check in the warm areas like under your armpits, behind the ears, in and around the hair, around the waist, in your navel, behind the knees, between your toes. You look for an insect, a little black or dark brown spot that doesn’t come off easily.

If I find a Tick, what should I do?  If you are checking yourself regularly, that will alert you as to how long it might have been there. So you do not need to immediately run to the doctor’s, but you can remove it yourself or if you need help you could have a friend or a relative remove it.  What you do not want to do is try to pull it with your fingers, because they can be infected with bacteria and they store it in their mid-gut, so if you pull it with your fingers there is a possibility that you might squeeze the bacteria out into the skin.

So it is really important to use tweezers. Fine-tipped tweezers are the best, and what you want to do is clean the tweezers with alcohol, then grab the tick as close as possible to the skin. Then you want to pull it straight out with continuous force, pulling it straight up and out. You don’t want to twist it or turn it, you want to remove it as completely as possible, and you don’t want any parts to squeeze out. But if for any reason there is any part of the tick left behind, your skin will extrude it. Sort of like when you have a splinter in your skin and it just extrudes it on its own.

What do I do with the Tick once removed?

You should put in in alcohol and place it in a sealed bag or container and wrap it tightly in tape.  Or you can just flush it down the toilet.

Do I need to worry about the skin where the Tick was removed?  You should disinfect that area.  Wash it with soap and water or you can use alcohol and apply an anti-bacterial topical.

Are there any particular signs of Lyme disease to look for once you have had a Tick Bite?  Within the first three days you might have a rash. The rash is red and patchy or it can look like a bull’s eye where you have a central reddened area surrounded by a clear area, and then a more expansive reddened area. And it could range from reddish to purple. This can occur anywhere between three and 33 days.

You can also develop flu-like symptoms like headache, aches and pains, muscle aches, joint pain, fevers and chills. Because of this, after having a tick bite it is important to pay attention to what is going on with your body for several weeks after.

Also, if you’ve been checking regularly for ticks, and you do find that you have one attached, you would more or less know how long it has been attached. So normally you do receive treatment if it has been attached for more than 36 hours. The treatment would involve going to your primary care physician where they would prescribe you an antibiotic.

What tips do you recommend for avoiding Ticks?  If you’re planning to be outdoors, one thing that you can do is you can treat your clothing or you can treat your gear if you’re going camping. They do have on the market Permethrin 0.5% spray that you can spray your garments or gear with. You would hang them up to dry and this would provide protection through several washings.

It’s really important when you are out taking a hike or walking in wooded areas that you walk in the center of the trails because you need to keep in mind that the ticks are lurking around on brush and leaves and grass, just waiting for a host and as you pass by and brush the leaves or the foliage they just latch onto you.

You want to make sure you’re wearing light colors because that makes it easier to see the ticks if they’re on your clothing. You also want to wear long sleeves, long pants, and tuck your pants into your socks or your boots. And when you return home you want to check your clothing for ticks. It’s recommended by the CDC that you take a shower within two hours of returning home, and use that opportunity to check your skin and use mirrors to look everywhere and make sure that you haven’t been bitten by a tick and that none are latched on.

You also want to remove your clothing and put it in the dryer, on high, for ten minutes. If the clothes are damp or wet, you want to dry them first and then stick them in the dryer for ten more minutes on high. If they need to be washed, you want to use hot water because the other temperatures will not kill the ticks.

What else can we do to avoid Ticks?   Use a tick repellent such as DEET up to 30%, Picaridin, IR3535 (the chemical found in the Skin So Soft), oil of lemon eucalyptus, and PMD. When choosing a tick repellent, you want to make sure not to use repellents on babies younger than two months old, and you shouldn’t use the oil of lemon eucalyptus or the PMD on children under three years old. If you have any questions on what insect repellents to use on your children, you should consult with their pediatrician.