Avoid ticks and tick-borne illnesses
By Mayo Clinic News Network
Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., reports seeing an increase in patients being treated, and even hospitalized, for tick-borne illnesses. The clear message from Mother Nature -- tick season is in full swing. In fact, 40 percent of tick bites in the upper Midwest occur in July. However, even avid fans of the great outdoors can fully enjoy all their favorite activities without fear if they take the proper steps to protect themselves.
- Use a suitable insect repellent.
- Check yourself, your children and your pets after spending time outdoors.
- To reduce risk on hikes, stay on trails. If you leave the path, wear long pants tucked into your socks.
- If you find ticks, remove them right away. Use force and pinch the tick near its mouth parts, pulling the tick out slowly in a continuous motion. Don’t twist it, which may leave mouth parts embedded in the skin.
- Keep grass short in yards and avoid ungroomed areas.
Mayo Clinic infectious disease expert Abinash Virk, M.D., says among the top tick-borne diseases of concern right now are Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and babesiosis.
Different species of ticks are known to be prime carriers of particular diseases. Ticks collected from patients who've been bitten are routinely identified and studied in Mayo Clinic labs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the tiny black-legged tick, often called the deer tick, is present across much of the eastern United States, as well as all West Coast states. Dr. Virk says it's a frequent carrier of Lyme disease which, if left untreated, can cause a host of medical complications affecting the heart, joints and nervous system.
"Particularly the small nymph of the tick, which is the small earlier stage of the tick. That is the one more likely to transmit these diseases."
Dr. Virk says, in general, ticks need to be attached for 24 to 36 hours to transmit disease, which is why checking your body for them after an outing is so important. If you do find an attached tick, she says remove all of it, including the head, then be alert for symptoms one to three weeks after being bitten.
“These are most often fevers, body aches, headaches and they’re not very specific, except for Lyme disease which, in the early stage, can give you the Lyme rash."
Dr. Virk recommends applying insect repellent containing 30 percent DEET to exposed skin. She also says the repellent permethrin (per METH rin) sprayed on or washed into clothing can be very effective.
"If you have this treated clothing on you and you have insect repellent on your skin, the likelihood you’re gonna get bitten is pretty much gone. And we’re not only talking ticks, we’re talking about mosquitoes and a whole bunch of other creepy-crawly, biting creatures."
Repellents that ward off ticks also help reduce mosquito bites, which can spread diseases like West Nile Virus and encephalitis.
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