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Tick Bite Awareness and Prevention

Tiny arachnids, ticks are vectors for numerous disease causing pathogens. Second only in disease transmission to mosquitos, ticks carry bacteria, viruses and parasites that cause serious, life-altering illnesses that can be fatal to humans. Avoiding ticks and knowing the early symptoms of a tickborne illness is your best strategy in preventing serious complications from a tick bite.

Knowledge:

  • When a tick finds a host it immediately burrows into the skin of the victim using its mouth and head. Most often, the tick will regurgitate its saliva, which contains neurotoxins, so the host doesn’t feel any pain. Because the victim usually can’t feel anything when the tick attaches itself to their skin, they don’t notice its presence until it’s too late.

Prevention

  • Repel ticks with DEET or permethrin. Do this by using repellents with 20% to 30% DEET on clothes and exposed skin, the repellent will last for several hours. Only use permethrin on clothing and gear (tents, shoes, etc.) with products that contain 0.5% permethrin. There are also pre-treated options.
  • Avoid direct contact with ticks. Ticks thrive in wooded and brushy areas, so avoiding these and other areas with lots of leaves or tall grass will help in tick prevention.
  • Look for and remove ticks from the body. Immediately after coming indoors take a hot bath or shower, then conduct a full body search for any ticks and dry your clothes on high heat. It’s also advised that you check your gear and pets for ticks.

Treatment

  • Remove the tick as soon as possible. When removing a tick use tweezers or a tick removal device and grasp the tick firmly at the spot closest to the skin. Then slowly pull the tick away from the skin, if there are mouthparts or a head left in the skin remove those as well. Clean the bite with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
  • Unless you begin to develop symptoms, no further treatment is necessary. However, if you develop symptoms seek professional medical attention immediately. Note: symptoms may not show up for several weeks following a bite.

Symptoms

  • Rashes. Only certain tick-borne diseases will cause a rash (Lyme disease, STARI, RMSF, ehrlichiosis and tularemia) and each rash is distinctive from others.
  • Fever/chills. With any type of tickborne illness, one can experience fever at varying degrees and chills either at the time of onset or shortly after.
  • Aches/pains. Headache, fatigue and muscle ache are all symptoms of a tickborne illness. In the case of Lyme disease, the victim may also experience joint pain.

Resources:

Center for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/symptoms.html, http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/resources/TickborneDiseases.pdf
EMedicine and Health: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/ticks/page2_em.htm

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