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The Great Outdoors and how to avoid getting "Ticked Off"

May 29, 2018, 08:05 AM

As we get nicer weather, we go outdoors more and the risk goes up for getting bit by a tick. Ticks can be found where there are shaded woods, low-growing brush or shrubs, dense weeds, piles of leaves, woodpiles or areas with high grass. One bite and this can put you at risk for diseases like Lyme disease and Babesiosis in the North Central/ Midwest part of the country or Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the Southeast /Atlantic coast. Ticks can’t jump or fly, so how do they land on us? Well, picking up a tick is as easy as brushing up against a leaf or walking in tall grass. Ticks hitch a ride on your clothes and once they are on you – they will try to find a place for a picnic. They go to places like the backs of your knees, your armpits, or in your hair or near your hairline. They will also go behind your ears and once they take a bite they will leave a mark.

So, how do I enjoy being outdoors and protect myself and my family from getting bit by ticks? Well, follow these helpful Tick Tips.

Know your environment:  
Be aware of where ticks live and thrive. If you’re hiking, walk in the center of the trail and avoid brushing up against the foliage. When you sit down outside, sit on something up higher like a rock if you don’t have a chair and avoid sitting directly on the ground.

Wear protective clothing:  
Put on long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wear a hat. Tuck your hair up under your hat. Wear high boots and tuck your pants down into your socks or boots. If you are hiking for a long period of time or in a known area of woodlands where ticks are, you may want to tape any loose areas of your clothes so ticks can’t get to your skin under your sleeves or your pants.

Use Insect (Bug) Spray:     
Insect spray comes in all kinds. So what works against Ticks? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists these things that work on ticks:

    P-Menthane-3, 8-diol 
    Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus 

    The length of time it protects will vary so read the label and choose one that matches what you are doing – like water, body sweat, and heat. Apply it lightly on exposed skin and also clothing. Do not apply near eyes, lips or mouth. Avoid cuts or red skin. Do spray in closed areas or near food. Do not apply on the hands of small children and don’t let young children apply it themselves. After coming indoors, wash treated areas of skin with soap and water. Wash treated clothing before wearing them.  

    Tick Checks and How to Remove Them: 
    Any time you come in from outdoors – do a Tick Check. Check your clothes, your skin on your arms, legs and front. Have someone check where you can’t see like your head, your hair and on your back. If you wear light colored clothes, you can see the ticks and brush them off before they have a chance to bite you. Ticks are hard to see, nymphs are not adult sized yet and are the size of a pinhead. The adults are smaller than a sesame seed.

    Getting rid of a tick is vital. First – don’t panic. A set of fine-tipped clean tweezers will do. It is all in the way it is removed that is the key.

     Use the tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as you can. Pull up with steady, even pressure. 

    Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with the tweezers. If you can’t remove the mouth easily, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

    After taking out the tick, clean the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

    Avoid folklore fixes such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or ointment, or using heat to make it detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick quickly and don’t wait for it to detach.

    If the skin where the bite was becomes red or has pus, or if you get body or muscle aches, fever, headaches, extra tired, joint pain, rash or stiff neck – seek medical attention.

    Resource: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention