Don't Let a Tick Make You Sick this Summer

2017 is expected to be the year of the tick.

Due to favorable environmental conditions and a higher population of hosts, ticks have become more common nationwide. Though small in size, the average tick can carry a number of problematic diseases; most commonly, Lyme disease.

There are, however, a multitude of ways to avoid the tick and even prevent the diseases they carry if you or someone you know is bitten.

Be Prepared On Ticks' Home Turf

Ticks are most prevalent in wooded areas and places where tall grass grows. The black-legged tick, or "deer tick," is the most common type found in this area.

"We have started moving into the ticks' area," says FHN Infection Preventionist Margie Kochsmier. "People are going into the woods, hunting, fishing, hiking, and enjoying their summer."

Don't worry, we're not discouraging summer activities in the woods; just remember to take preventative measures. Margie says one of the best ways to more easily detect ticks is to wear light-colored clothing to contrast the natural color of the bug.

In addition, she advises wearing long-sleeved clothing and long pants, even going so far as to tuck your pant legs into your shoes.

Ticks can still attach to your clothing, so "The best thing to do is shower immediately after getting back from the woods and tumble-dry your clothes," Margie says. "The heat will kill any ticks on your clothing."

Body Checks

FHN Infectious Disease Specialist Robert Geller, MD, MS, FACP, FIDSA, also suggests that people do body-checks after getting out of the woods.

"One of the most important things you can do is to just check for ticks," Dr. Geller says. Detection can be difficult due to the size of the tick, which is why it is important to check as often as possible.

"I'd say 50 percent of the people with Lyme claim a tick never bit them," Dr. Geller says.

If you are bitten, don't panic: It takes at least 24 to 36 hours before the tick can transmit any disease.

Removing the tick is fairly simple: Use a pair of tweezers to remove the tick by its head. Don't use nail polish or alcohol to try and kill the tick beforehand.

"If a piece is left in there, don't try and get it," says Dr. Geller. "Rooting around will probably make it worse. If the tick is gone, the part will fall out on its own."

For more information and an illustration on how to remove a tick, Dr. Geller suggests consulting the Center for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov.

Even if you've successfully removed a tick, watch for the early signs of Lyme: flu-like symptoms, arthritis, rash, fever, headache, and joint, heart, and nerve pain.

If you experience any of these – even if you aren't aware of having been bitten – schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Lyme Can Affect Pets, Too

It is easier to detect the symptoms of Lyme disease in people than in our four-legged counterparts.

"Dogs can't tell you what's wrong," Margie says. "They just get really sluggish, so you have to watch out for them."

It is important for pets, dogs especially, to be outfitted with tick collars or be on a flea and tick medication when they are allowed to roam outside.

This also prevents ticks from hitching a ride on your dog into your house. There are a number of tick prevention tools available as well, including Deep Woods insect repellant and other protectants to spray on your clothing.

Couple these tools with the advice above and you and your family can enjoy a tick-free summer!

Don't Let a Tick Make You Sick this Summer