Spring and summer welcome warm nights, long days, and, unfortunately, ticks. Ticks aren’t just a nuisance—they carry diseases that can sometimes cause serious illness in both humans and animals. Some common diseases they are known to carry and transmit include Lyme disease, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, heartland virus, and rickettsia.
In the South, the time of year that we refer to as “tick season” generally starts in April and runs through September, although experts say that ticks are becoming a year-round threat. As such, it’s important to stay proactive year-round to protect against tick-borne diseases. How can you protect yourself against these tiny pests? Here are our top tips for keeping yourself safe during this 2021 tick season and beyond.
- Wear light-colored, protective clothing
It’s recommended that you wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in light colors when spending time in areas with thick vegetation and tall grasses. Wearing light colors will help you spot ticks much easier, as they are either brown or black in color. You can also tuck your pants into your socks to block ticks’ easy access to your skin and wear hats to keep them out of your hair.
- Treat your clothing and gear
If you plan to spend time in nature, spray your clothes and gear with an insecticide that contains at least 0.5 percent permethrin, which is non-toxic to humans but deadly to ticks.
- Avoid tick-infested areas
The reality is that if you go outside, you’re at risk of a tick bite. There are ways, however, to reduce your risk. Ticks tend to reside in wooded areas, shrubs, bushes, and tall grass. When on a hike, keep to the center of the trail where ticks are less likely to be. Avoid going off the main trail or walking through high grass or shrubbery.
- Do a thorough tick check
The risk of contracting a tick-borne disease is greater the longer a tick is attached to your skin. That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly check yourself and your family members for ticks when you get home from a hike or another outdoor activity. The CDC suggests using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body including places you might not think to look including:
- Under your arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside the belly button
- Back of the knees
- On your scalp and in your hair
- Between your legs
- Around your waist
Taking a shower after being outdoors is a great opportunity for a tick check and helps wash off any unattached ticks. Ticks can also hitch a ride on clothing or pets, and then attach to a person later, so carefully examine your dog, coats, and daypacks as well.
- Remove ticks immediately
If you find an attached tick, remove it immediately with tweezers by grasping the part that is sticking out and pulling it off of your skin. Sometimes, this will leave behind small black mouthparts of the tick in your skin, but don’t worry—these small mouthparts don’t transmit disease and should be left alone. They will work their way out on their own.
When to see a doctor
Not all ticks carry tick-borne diseases, but many do. If you start experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease, including fever, chills, aches, pains, or the telltale bulls-eye rash following a tick bite, it’s important to seek medical care immediately. These symptoms usually start three to 30 days after the tick bite.
If you’re concerned about a tick bite or are seeking Lyme disease treatment in Hillsborough, NC, please feel free to schedule an appointment with IndyCare urgent care or walk-in today.