Warm-Weather Wellness: Steering Clear of Ticks
Springtime means warmer days and plenty of opportunities to spend time outdoors. However, Southern Tier residents, especially those with small children or pets, need to be aware of some tiny outdoor dangers. Ticks, small insects that burrow under the skin, are plentiful in our community, and are especially active during the spring and summer months. Lyme disease, which is spread primarily by tick bites, is also on the rise. Here are some tips from UHS and the Centers for Disease Control Prevention to help you protect yourself and your loved ones from infection:
1. Be careful outdoors. According to the CDC, "Reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other tickborne infections.” This can be accomplished by avoiding high grass and bushy areas, keeping to the center of outdoor trails and using insect repellent products specifically designed to repel ticks. Also, if you have pets that spend time outdoors, be sure to check them thoroughly for ticks when they come in, as ticks brought inside by pets can easily transfer to humans. You may want to consult your veterinarian for safe methods of protecting your pets from ticks while they are outdoors.
2. Know what to look for. The CDC recommends that you do the following: "Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair." If a tick is found, the only safe method of removal is the following: Using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible, and pull upwards with steady, even pressure, taking care not to let the tweezers slip or to break off part of the tick's body, leaving part under the skin. Afterwards, thoroughly disinfect tweezers, your hands and the site of the bite.
3. Follow up with your doctor. Whether you have been bitten, developed a circular rash (which may be an early symptom of Lyme disease) or have questions about which tick repellents are safest, your primary care provider is a great resource. Providers in the Southern Tier have experience dealing with tick bites and looking for any symptoms of tick-borne illness. If your primary care provider thinks that you may have been exposed to Lyme disease, he or she can order a lab test for the disease and begin a course of treatment if necessary.
More information on ticks and Lyme disease can be found here: http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/