Prevention and early detection are keys to disease avoidance.
Now that the days are longer and warmer, ticks are becoming active. Outdoor enthusiasts should take precautions as ticks can spread several diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis and others. Incidences of each disease vary by region, but the techniques for lowering your chance of contracting any tick-borne disease are the same.
The easiest way to prevent a tick bite is to stay out of areas where ticks live. However, that’s not always possible, especially for the avid camper, hunter, fisherman or even the weekend gardener. If you are going to be in a wooded area where ticks are known to exist, the best protection is a good skin repellent that contains at least 25 percent DEET. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long pants tucked into socks also helps create a tick barrier, while light-colored clothing will help you spot ticks that you may pick up along the way. To limit exposure, backpackers, campers and hunters should avoid brushy areas if possible. For example, setting up camp in a clearing is a good practice to help reduce the chance of encountering ticks.
A new innovation to fight ticks is a treatment that creates tick-proof clothing, socks, shoes and even tents. Buggspray Insect Repellent for Ticks (www.BuggSpray.com) is a unique product that safely turns fabric into a shield that will repel and kill ticks for more than two weeks even through repeated laundering. Simply spray the product on your clothes and allow them to dry before wearing. Using a combination of DEET-based repellents on exposed skin and this “insect repellent clothing” will virtually eliminate the risk of tick and mosquito bites.
Regardless of the precautions you take while enjoying outdoor activities, it is still good practice to frequently check for ticks and remove them promptly. By doing so, you can greatly reduce your risk of contracting a disease even if you are bitten. Ticks will burrow in at the hairline, behind the ears as well as behind knees, at the waistline and in armpits.
If you find a tick on your body, removing it correctly and promptly are key. If possible, use a tweezers to grasp the tick forward of its head as close to your skin as possible. Gently and steadily pull the tick outward until it releases, being careful not to break off the head and mouth. The mouthparts themselves do not generally transmit disease, however, they may sometimes cause a secondary infection. Wash your hands and the wound area with soap and water after removal and handling a tick. Don’t use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products to remove a tick – these ‘remedies’ are not effective and may be harmful.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a good resource for additional information on tick-borne disease prevention. Its Web site, www.CDC.gov, details specific diseases associated with certain ticks found regionally in the United States, tick identification as well as diagnosis and treatment.