Ick! The Real Health Threat of Ticks This Spring
Ticks are a real problem for many communities this spring and summer. SignatureMD concierge doctors know one of the worst diseases that often go unchecked is Lyme disease, a truly debilitating illness that can be prevented with extra care.
Due to the warm spring, ticks have been generally more active this year, according to the CDC.
Ticks are vile little blood sucking arachnids – the same family that includes scorpions, spiders, bed bugs and mites. The bug has four stages of life, and adults can get to a half inch in length.
Some common species of ticks include the American dog tick, the lone star tick and the deer tick. The American dog tick can carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, while the deer tick can spread Lyme disease. If you think you may have lyme disease and are having the symptoms, it’s best to get it checked out with a lyme disease kit to make sure and then see where to go from there.
Tiny ticks can feed slowly and can go unnoticed for a lengthy period of time while drinking your blood. Ticks cannot fly but live in wooded areas or among tall grass and weeds. They creep into camp bedding and can attach easily on a day hike if you are not vigilant.
If a tick attaches itself to your body, the best way to remove it is by grasping the tick with tweezers as close to your skin as possible, and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Their secretions may carry disease so try never to touch them.
If you are hiking on trails, walk in the center of the trail to avoid grass and brush. Examine all clothing and skin frequently for ticks when outdoors.
When outdoors away from home, the CDC recommends wearing long-sleeved, long-legged, light-colored clothing. Tuck pant legs into socks to refuse ticks an entry point. Spray clothing and any exposed skin with a product containing 20% DEET. Clothing and other gear, but not skin, can be treated with Permethrin, which will kill ticks and mosquitoes on contact and should last through several washings. Check carefully for ticks after being outdoors.
If you have pets, examine them for ticks carefully. Talk to your veterinarian about using tick collars and sprays. As with all pest control products, be sure to follow directions carefully.
If you have an unexplained rash or illness with a fever following a tick bite, you should see your doctor immediately.
At home, keep your yard mowed and maintained free of weeds. Clear out areas where lawn and tree debris gathers. Ticks thrive in moist, shady areas and tend to die in sunny, dry areas. Locate compost piles away from play areas or high traffic. Separate them with pea gravel. Don’t position playground equipment, decks and patios near treed areas. Eliminate leaf litter and brush by cleaning it up around the house and lawn edges, mow tall grasses and keep your lawn short. If none of these suggestions work and you’re still unsure about what to do for pest control, don’t hesitate to get in contact with professionals who will be able to offer you assistance with your pest problem.
Landscape with plants and shrubs that are not attractive to deer and/or install physical barriers to keep deer out of your yard (They love roses). Check with your local nursery to determine the best choices for your area.
Professional Pest Control Services utilize both barrier sprays that can kill live ticks on the spot as well as “tick tubes.” Strategically placed, “tick tubes” prompt field mice to incorporate tick-killing material in their bedding, effectively eliminating hundreds of tick nymphs found in each mouse nest.
Be aware that Lyme disease may be spreading, according to a study released in February in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. It showed a clear risk across much of the Northeast, from Maine to northern Virginia; a high-risk region in the upper Midwest, including parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois; and “emerging risk” regions including the Illinois-Indiana border, southwestern Michigan and eastern North Dakota.
Lyme disease causes flu-like symptoms including fever, chills and achy joints, and often a distinctive bull’s-eye rash. Most people recover quickly when treated early with antibiotics, but untreated infections can cause more serious conditions like Bell’s palsy, arthritis and neurological problems.
Other ways to help prevent Lyme disease, according to the CDC, include bathing after being outside, to help spot ticks or wash of ones that haven’t attached yet; checking outdoor gear and pets for ticks; and running clothing through a hot dryer for an hour to kill any ticks.
I. CDC – Lyme: http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/
II. American Lyme Disease Foundation: http://www.aldf.com/