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What you need to know about ticks, from preventing them to treating bites


Warmer weather means more pesky insects we need to avoid, including ticks. Tick ​​bites have been on the rise in recent years – and there are a number of factors that are likely contributing to it.

“Ticks thrive best in warmer conditions, so increasing temperatures, both in summer and in winter, can lead to more ticks and tick bites,” said Matthew Aardema, assistant professor of biology at Montclair State University.

Growing deer populations in parts of the country have also likely led to higher numbers of ticks. And a greater proportion of people spending time outdoors and engaging in activities like hiking or gardening, which have become popular de-stressers in the era of the pandemic, is another contributor to the increase in dog bites. ticks.

An increase in tick encounters can cause things like Lyme disease, which is also on the increase. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 47,743 cases of tick-borne illnesses. In 2019, the number increased to 50,865.

David claborn, director of the Master of Public Health Missouri State University program said that in recent years, experts have been able to detect even more tick-borne illnesses that have likely been misdiagnosed in the past.

“For example, in the southwestern Missouri region, two viral diseases have been identified in the past 15 years: the heart virus and the bourbon virus,” he said. “These aren’t necessarily new viruses; we just know what to look for now and have sophisticated tools to identify them.

So how do you avoid tick bites and what should you know about ticks in general? Here is a guide.

Where are ticks usually found?

“Ticks are found almost everywhere, with the exception of high mountains; however, they are more likely to be in areas with thick brush and tall grass, ”Claborn said.

They are particularly abundant, he added, in ecotones, which are areas of transition from one dominant vegetation to another. For example, the ecotone between heavily forested areas and open grasslands are particularly privileged areas.

How do you know if there are ticks in your area?

“If you aren’t already experiencing it by seeing them on your pets, your family, or yourself, there are a few resources,” said Jean Tsao, a associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

She directs people to the CDC’s “ticks live areas” website for a breakdown of the different types of ticks and where they are most common.

If you live in a state where tick surveillance is active, your state’s health department website may also contain more detailed information, ”Tsao added. And this CDC page has maps for certain tick species, as well as the risks of exposure to ticks infected with Lyme disease bacteria.

Check the meeting also provides information on ticks and has a Tick ​​Search Card where people can submit photos of ticks in their area and share which varieties might be active in their geographic region at any given time.

“The experts identify the photos and put the information together, so it’s reliable,” Tsao said.

You can prevent ticks from latching onto the breast by wearing appropriate clothing when you are outside and inspecting your pets after they are outdoors.

How to prevent tick bites?

There are a few methods you should practice. First, Aardema suggested wearing pants and socks that cover the ankles and lower legs when hiking outside.

“Where possible, the pant legs can be tucked into the socks to prevent ticks from accessing the skin,” he explained. “However, it can mean that ticks will try to crawl higher in the body.”

Opt for lighter colored clothing, which makes it easier to see ticks before they start to bite. And don’t forget your bug spray.

Apply an insect repellant containing at least 25% DEET to your clothes, especially shoes and pant legs, ”said Aardema, who noted that products without DEET have not been shown to be effective in preventing tick bites.

“A tick looking for a place to bite is much easier to remove than a tick that has already started feeding, so check for ticks frequently during hikes or whenever you spend a lot of time outdoors,” he said. added Aardema.

And after spending all time out ticking– prone areas, you need to carefully check for the presence of ticks on your body. Aardema said to do it even in winter, if temperatures are above zero.

It is important to inspect all areas of your body, including the scalp, behind the ears, under the arms, in the groin area, inside the navel and behind the knees, added Jeannie Kenkare. , Chief Physician at PhysicalOne Urgent Care. “Take a shower if possible to help remove ticks that have not yet taken hold,” she said.

Your dog or cat can also carry ticks from outside, even if they are wearing a flea and tick collar. Rachel rubin, a co-head of the Cook County Illinois Department of Public Health, said to run your fingers through your pet’s fur with light pressure to detect small bumps. Look in and around the ears, under the collar, between the legs, toes, and around the tail.

You can also do some maintenance work in your garden to minimize your chances of encountering ticks. Karen Reardon, Vice President of Public Affairs at TO AUGMENTa national trade association dedicated to pesticides and specialty fertilizers – recommended removing leaves, brush and weeds and pruning shrubs and trees around the perimeter of your home and the edge of your lawn.

“Use pesticides around the perimeter of your home and as a targeted barrier treatment,” she said. You can also hire a professional to treat your garden with an effective insect repellent, she added.

How do you know if you have a tick bite?

A tick bite may go unnoticed if the tick is no longer attached and if it does not cause an immunological reaction, such as if the area does not itch or cause a rash.

“Tick bites usually don’t itch or cause a rash, but if some people have been bitten by ticks in the past, their bodies might develop an immune response to the salivary proteins from a tick bite.” because the immune system has seen these proteins before and created antibodies, ”Tsao said. “So the bite site can be itchy and red, just like a mosquito bite. “

If the tick transmits a pathogen such as Lyme disease bacteria, there may be a circular rash, which is also described as a “bull’s eye rash” that develops from the tick bite. Tsao said that if a American dog tick or one Gulf Coast Tick gives you a purple fever, you may have another type of rash.

What you need to know about ticks, from preventing them to treating bites

Experts recommend covering your lower legs and ankles when you are in areas prone to ticks.

Should you remove a tick if it is embedded in your skin?

Tsao said yes, you should always remove a tick that bites you. “If the tick is infected, the longer it is attached, the greater the likelihood that it will pass the pathogen to you,” she explained. And the sooner you remove the tick, the greater the chance of preventing transmission.

To remove a tick, Tsao said to use fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Then pull out the tick with a steady motion (without twisting or quick movements).

“If small parts of the tick break off and remain in the skin, remove them if they are easy to remove, but if not, leave it alone and the body will push it back over time,” she said. Try not to squeeze the tick’s body when you grab it, as this could increase the likelihood of the tick infecting you.

And stay away from other DIY removal strategies. “We often hear of people using petroleum jelly or matches to kill the tick while it is attached to the skin. It’s not effective and of course can cause much more damage to the skin, ”said Andrew S. Handel, assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

After removing the tick, Tsao said to wash the area with soap and water or alcohol. She suggested keeping the tick so that if you do get sick it can be used for identification by the doctor to determine the course of diagnosis and treatment. This can be especially important, as different species of ticks transmit different pathogens. Take clear pictures of the tick and send them to Check the application or Tick ​​detectors for experts to identify the tick for you.

What to do after a tick bite?

If you’ve removed a tick, Kenkare said it’s important to watch for symptoms for at least two weeks.

“The most common symptoms of tick bite illnesses are fever or chills, fatigue and body aches,” she said. A rash is also a sign that you should see a doctor.

Additionally, the bite site can become infected, so watch for any increasing redness, swelling, or pain. “If you develop any of these symptoms after a tick bite, you should immediately see a doctor with your primary care or local emergency department,” Kenkare said.

Although Lyme disease is the most common infection transmitted by ticks, there are other diseases that can also originate from tick bacteria. “These illnesses often have similar symptoms, including fever, fatigue, headache, nausea and vomiting, and all require medical attention,” Kenkare explained.

But just because you’ve been bitten doesn’t necessarily mean you’re infected. “While tick bites always concern me as an emergency care physician, it’s important to remember that not all ticks carry disease,” Kenkare said. “A healthcare professional can thoroughly examine the bite, history, and conditions surrounding it to determine if further testing or treatment is needed.”

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