Irresistible summer weather calls for gardening, long dog walks and camping out in the backyard with your kids. Unfortunately, pesky insects can crash the party, leading to unwanted bug bites and even infection or disease. Among the culprits are ticks, whose bites are usually harmless but can sometimes lead to Lyme disease.
Cathy Cantor, MD, of ProMedica Physicians, suggested making checking for ticks part of your routine when coming in from the great outdoors. Safely removing the tick and treating the wound can significantly decrease your risk for disease or infection.
To safely remove a tick, Dr. Cantor recommended using fine tipped tweezers, or gloves if tweezers are not available. Grabbing the tick as close to the mouth as possible, gently pull it straight out from the skin. Avoid twisting or squeezing it. To clean the wound, wash the area with warm soap and water. If you’re uncomfortable with removing the tick yourself or if you can only remove part of it, consult with your doctor.
“If you do take it out yourself, make sure you save it in a bag or in a dry jar,” Dr. Cantor says. “You may need it for evidence and testing if any complications arise later on.”
Could It Be Lyme Disease?
“At the site of the tick bite, there could be expanding red rings that almost look like a target on your skin, which could be an indication of Lyme disease” Dr. Cantor says. “Some folks will experience a rash, fatigue, joint pain, flu-like symptoms, and headaches, along with possible neurological symptoms.”
While oral and IV antibiotics are effective in treating an early onset of the disease, long-term health complications can arise if the disease goes untreated.
“Long-term complications can include heart rhythm irregularities that could cause other cardiac problems and could potentially be fatal,” Dr. Cantor says. “Lyme disease can also cause chronic joint inflammation and impaired memory.”
Dr. Cantor recommends receiving medical attention if there is any suspicion of the disease. The sooner symptoms can be treated, the lower the risk of long-term health complications.
Prevention Is The Best Protection
Though ticks seem unavoidable, there are preventive steps that help decrease the chance of coming in contact with ticks:
- Wear long sleeves and long pants if you are going to be in an environment notorious for ticks, such as wooded or grassy areas.
- Apply insect repellent with a 20 percent or higher concentration of DEET on exposed skin to repel insects.
- Remove excess brush, leaves and wood piles from the yard.
- Check pets and children for ticks as they enter the house from playing in the yard.
With proper prevention and safe tick removal when needed, you can have a fun and pest-free summer.
How do you enjoy the great outdoors in the summer? Leave your answer in the comments section below.