Spring Series: Ticks
If you spend much time outside during spring and summer, you’ll likely share wild places with one of the peskiest arachnids known to mankind: ticks.
Ticks are more annoying than most mites and spiders, as well as swarming insects like gnats, mosquitoes and blackflies. If not taken seriously and addressed quickly, tick bites can trigger life-altering ailments or worse.
But don’t let ticks scare you indoors. By preventing and treating tick bites you can enjoy your outdoors lifestyle during warm-weather months. Nearly all ticks can transmit serious diseases such as Lyme disease, spotted fever or anaplasmosis/ehrlichiosis.
Thousands of people and their pets deal with Lyme disease, perhaps the most common tick-borne illness. If not treated, Lyme disease can cause depression, aching joints and headaches/muscle aches. Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis trigger similar symptoms. Lyme disease often creates a bull’s-eye-shaped rash around the bite. Contact your doctor immediately if you detect a rash or feel abnormal after sustaining a tick bite. Early detection can prevent tick-borne illnesses from progressing.
As its name suggests, spotted fever causes an itching, burning spotted rash covering the infected area. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting and appetite loss. Seek medical help immediately if you experience such symptoms. Spotted fever can be fatal if not treated.
If you find an imbedded tick, remove it promptly. Do not use oils to coax the tick to remove itself. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control warns that oils can make ticks salivate more, thus increasing the likelihood of transmitting diseases. The CDC recommends using tweezers to grab the tick by its body and steadily pulling it out the way it entered. Then apply an antibacterial ointment to the bite and monitor it for a rash, swelling or other signs of infection.
Preventing bites, of course, remains the best defense. Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts use several products to reduce or eliminate tick bites. Some clothes come treated with permethrin, a chemical that kills ticks on contact. If your clothing wasn’t treated at the factory, you can buy permethrin and apply it to your clothes. Permethrin withstands frequent washings and doesn’t harm its wearer when contacting skin.
In addition, DEET sprays deter ticks. Keep in mind, however, that DEET and permethrin are potent chemicals that aren’t safe for ingestion by pets or people. Store these chemicals in a safe place, and do not leave treated clothing where it’s accessible to pets or people.
Other tick repellents offer natural solutions for keeping you tick-free. Peppermint oil, and oil of lemon eucalyptus can be applied to skin to prevent ticks from latching on. You’ll find a list of other natural preventative oils and tips here.
Besides oils and chemicals, many old-fashioned preventative measures can keep you tick-free. One common method is to tuck your pants legs into your socks. If that’s not possible with your outerwear, consider wearing a lightweight, moisture-wicking base layer beneath your pants and tucking it into your socks. Do the same on top by wearing a base layer and tucking it into your pants. Once you return indoors, jump into the shower and check yourself for ticks that might have latched on while you were outside. You’ll drastically reduce your chances of being infected by any diseases.
Although ticks present a serious issue for those who spend time outdoors during spring and summer, you aren’t helpless. Take precautions to reduce your chances of contracting any of the tick-borne ailments that cause long-term ailments. In addition, consult nearby wildlife professionals to learn other measures you can take to remain tick-free.