In the northeast we see ticks and tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease, all year round, but during the warmer weather tick bites are more prevalent. It’s important to be aware of how to prevent these bites and what do if one happens.
The first step in prevention is to dress appropriately in tick infested areas. Wooded areas and high brush tend to harbor ticks in abundance, though they do live in other places. While hiking or doing other activities in these areas, it is recommended to wear light-colored clothes as to make the ticks more visible. Dress in long pants and long sleeves with pants tucked into high socks. Clothes can be treated with permethrin as a tick repellent. This needs to be reapplied after 6 washings or after 6 weeks. DEET bug spray can be used on exposed skin for added protection. Tick checks should be done after being outside. Look in hard to see areas, including behind ears, hairlines and in folds of skin. Also, dogs often bring ticks into people’s homes. Dogs should be treated with tick prevention measures and checked for ticks after being outside.
What to do if you see a bite
The quicker a tick is removed, the less likely a tick-borne illness will be transmitted. It typically takes at least 48 hours after a tick has been embedded to transmit most diseases. Fine tipped tweezers are recommended for removal. Pull the tick straight out, do not twist. If a piece breaks off and remains, leave it. Clean the area with alcohol. Finally, seek medical attention. If there is concern that disease could have been transmitted, a prophylactic dose of antibiotic may be administered. Also, blood tests for tick illnesses can be done about 2 weeks after a bite (but you should be evaluated sooner if symptoms present).
Symptoms to watch for
If you developed any symptoms, seek medical treatment immediately. Symptoms include-
– aches/pains (including headache, muscle aches, and joint swelling)
– bullseye rash (at site of the bite)
Deborah Mogelof, MD
Medical Director and Attending Physician
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