Icky Ticks

Reader Contribution by Jacqueline Wilt, R.N. and C.E.M.T.
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In my neck of the woods, ticks are a way of life. Summertime is all but here in the Midwest, and we are already on tick patrol after every outing.

I don’t remember ticks being such a nuisance as a kid. Sure, we had one every so often, and the dogs always had a few. But they weren’t as common, and tickborne diseases were a rarity.

However, tickborne diseases have tripled since the 1990s. Diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever that 20 years ago were considered rare, are now almost commonplace in some areas of the United States.

New diseases such as Heartland disease and Bourbon disease (named for Bourbon County, Kansas, where it was discovered) are emerging as well. The symptoms and possible long-term effects of these diseases is downright terrifying.

Photo by Getty Images/Anest.

Those of us who farm, care for livestock, hunt, garden, or take part in any other outdoor activities daily are especially at risk for getting tick bites. Preventing this from happening is our best defense against getting sick. The obvious and first advice given for prevention is to avoid areas where ticks are found.

However, for most of us this is not possible. Our daily routine brings us in close contact with tall grass, brush, trees, and livestock — all places that ticks frequent. So, what do we do?

One of the best methods we have found in our personal use on our farm is Permethrin spray on our clothing. Products with at least 0.5 percent Permethrin are quite effective in keeping ticks away. We choose two or three outfits, hang them out on the clothesline, and spray them down with the Permethrin spray until they are damp.

The clothes are allowed to dry before we wear them. Boots, shoes, and gloves are also treated. This will last up to 6 washes before the clothing must be re-treated. So far, this is the best method we have found in keeping those nasty beasties at bay.

This spray may be used on dogs and other livestock as well. It’s a good idea to check with your veterinarian first to be sure of safety for your animal.

Photo property of Jacqueline Wilt.

After you return from working outside, you should bathe or shower as soon as possible. This will help remove any ticks that may be crawling on you, before they have a chance to bite. Put clothing in the dryer and tumble dry on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may be on your clothing.

Use a hand held or full-length mirror (or your significant other) to do a full body check for ticks. Be sure to check children over carefully as well.

If you find a tick attached, don’t panic. They are easy to remove. I admit, I usually just pick them off and kill them with my fingernails. This isn’t the best way, though.

They should be removed using a pair of tweezers or other tick removal device. The tick should be grasped as close to the skin as possible, and then pulled off.

Avoid squeezing the tick’s body. It is not recommended to apply things such as petroleum jelly or finger nail polish to get the tick to let go, as this can increase the chances of disease transmission.

Ticks should be removed as soon as possible after they bite to reduce the chance of disease transmission. It is common for tick bites to itch, similar to a mosquito bite.

However, if there is significant swelling, any rash, or any other symptoms after a tick bite, you should see your doctor. Be sure to let your doctor know you have had a tick bite so they know what symptoms to look for and the proper course of treatment. Most tick-borne disease are treatable if diagnosed early.

There is a world of information about ticks, their prevention, the diseases they cause, and how to manage them. Every geographic area has different species of ticks that bite humans, and different diseases transmitted by those species. The CDC website is a great resource for more information.

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