The large number of acorns and mild weather this past fall and winter led to an increase in the rodent population, ideal conditions for ticks to flourish. When it comes to preventing tick-borne diseases, protection, checking and seeking medical help are equally important. Here, the best ways to defend yourself from this summer scourge.
Create a chemical and physical barrier against ticks: Spray yourself with an insect repellent containing no more than 30 percent DEET (such as OFF! Deep Woods) and your clothes and shoes with permethrin spray. Tuck your pants into your socks.
Be vigilant about self-exams: Check yourself, your partner and your children every day. (It typically takes a tick between 24 to 72 hours to transmit the bacterial pathogens into your body.) Check places where ticks like to burrow, such as the waistband, behind the knees, belly button and groin. Use a lint roller on your clothes and any exposed skin to pick up ticks that may still be crawling on you. Immediately put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for about 15 minutes, before washing them, to kill ticks.
When you find a tick: Before removing, take a photo with your phone in case you need to identify it later. Put a coin next to it as a size reference. To remove, use very pointy tweezers to grab the tick by its head as close to your skin as possible, and with steady pressure pull it up and out.
Dealing with deer ticks: If you’re bitten by a deer tick that looks engorged with blood, you may want to take a prophylactic dose of antibiotics, which may decrease your risk of contracting Lyme. (Go to tickencounter.org for help identifying types.) If you develop a bull’s-eye rash (though not everyone who becomes infected with Lyme disease does), or you expe-rience flu-like symptoms, see your doctor right away and start—and finish—a course of antibiotics.
Protect your pets: Treat your pets with a “kills-on-contact” tick product. Also avoid sleeping with them.
A new tick threat: The Lone Star tick: The Lone Star tick doesn’t transmit Lyme disease, but it can pass on ehrlichiosis as well as Alpha-gal, an allergy to mammalian meat, within minutes of biting you. Those affected can develop hives, swelling of the mouth or throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, anaphylactic shock after eating meat. If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your local emergency department right away.
Where to get help: Southampton Hospital’s Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center is here to help. Visit eastendtickresource.org or call our help line at (631) 726-TICK. Rebecca Young, RN, BSN, can answer all your questions, including how to remove a tick.
Max H. Minnerop, M.D., is an emergency department physician at Southampton Hospital and a member of the medical advisory panel of its Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center.