Dealing with Tick Season

It’s that season in the Northeast. Tick season. Spanning from when the frost stops to when it starts again, tick season brings a bevy of concerns. When I was growing up, I was constantly outside in the woods behind our house, climbing trees, playing in leaves and collecting various bugs. Needless to say, I had several tick bites a year, as did our dogs. This was in the time before tick-borne diseases like Lyme were well-known. Fortunately, now we know that there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.

What’s the big deal about a tick bite, you say? Tick-borne diseases continue to be a problem – especially in our corner of the country. Lyme Disease is the most commonly seen, but Bartonella and Babesiosis are also becoming more prevalent; moreover, the “co-infections” like Bartonella, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis and others can occur simultaneously, depending on what the tick is carrying. The tick itself is simply a parasite that has to bite mammals to feed itself. The tick also carries a range of microbes, which are responsible for tick-borne diseases. When the tick bites you, the microbes can get into your bloodstream and cause infection. That said, some people are also sensitive or allergic to ticks themselves – this is rare but can confuse the issue.

Before You Go Hiking, in the Woods, on a Walk in Nature or Doing Yardwork:

  • Wear long sleeves, pants, socks and sneakers/boots – all of these should be light-colored so you can easily see any bugs or ticks

  • Wear a hat

  • Put long hair in a ponytail/bun/braid/etc.

  • Spray on natural insect and tick repellant (essential oil sprays can be very helpful here)

  • Spray pets with pet-safe tick and bug repellant (again, essential oil sprays can be great)

  • Tuck your pants into your socks for better protection

  • Walk in the middle of nature trails rather than the edges

After Your Nature Excursion:

  • Visually check yourself thoroughly for ticks before going indoors. Pay attention to your hairline and scalp, and the natural crevices of your body (armpits, groin, behind ears, etc. – see below)

  • Better: have someone else check you too

  • Check pets too (see below)

  • Also check any backpacks, bags, etc. that you brought with you

  • Take a shower as soon as you can, and check all over your skin for ticks

  • When taking clothes off, watch to see that no bugs fall onto the floor

  • Shake clothes outside and then put in dryer for 15 minutes

Image: CDC.gov

If You Find a Tick:

  • If it’s crawling: Do not let it out of your sight. Get it off you asap – try using a piece of tape and wrapping it up or put in a zipper bag and dispose of it.

  • If it’s attached: Use tweezers to take hold of it, pinching the tweezers together, as close to your skin as possible. The head of the tick is what will be digging into/embedded in the skin. Gently pull straight out (not at an angle from your skin surface), without twisting, until it loosens/releases a little, then gently pull it out. Do not pull hard or forcefully. Place it in a zipper bag or between pieces of tape, then dispose of it. Don’t crush it or flush it. Wash the bite area with soap and water or an alcohol wipe.

After a Tick Bite:

  • Pay attention to the skin around the bite area daily, as well as the rest of your skin, for several weeks after a tick bite.

  • If you notice any sort of rash or circular redness around the tick bite OR elsewhere on your skin, get yourself to a doctor as soon as possible (if it’s the weekend, go to an urgent care clinic – do not wait a day).

  • If you notice the bite itself looks “angry” (redness, swelling, discoloration, discharge) and is not healing after a few days, see your doctor.

  • If you feel a little “off”, feverish, extra tired, muscle/body aches, mental fogginess, trouble remembering things or concentrating, difficulty with any of your usual tasks, or experience any new health symptoms, see your doctor asap. These are potential symptoms of a tick-borne disease, and the sooner you are treated for it the better the outcome can be.

  • If you have the above symptoms and haven’t seen a tick, it’s still a good idea to get checked by your doctor, as ticks can be tiny and you may not have seen it – even if you haven’t been galavanting in nature, ticks can come into your environment on others’ clothing, on animals, etc.

  • If you’re not sure if you’re having symptoms: see your doctor to be safe.

Image: CDC.gov

Keep your summer (and spring and fall) plans from being overshadowed by a bite, and stay happy and healthy!

Check out the CDC’s website for more info on ticks and disease: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html.

The information provided here is not intended to replace medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please consult your doctor with specific questions and prior to beginning any significant diet or lifestyle changes.