As the seasons, and days, change from cold to warm, New Englanders are eager to get outside and enjoy the mountains, beaches, lakes and camping that make up our well-rounded landscape. Unfortunately, another season has begun as well – tick season in New England. Although the last thing anyone wants to think about when finally getting outside to enjoy the summer weather is menacing ticks, it is important to educate yourself about tick prevention and treatment.
Ticks are more active in spring, summer and fall but can be around any time the temperature is above freezing. Each year thousands of cases of Lyme disease are reported in each of the three northern New England States. As a matter of fact, Vermont and Maine have the highest rates of Lyme disease compared with any other state, while New Hampshire ranks in the top ten. Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash, fever, joint pain and fatigue. Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi when it is transmitted to humans through the bite from an infected deer tick. This can occur from the bite of an adult or baby (nymph) deer tick.
All about ticks:
Due to its small size, the deer tick can often be missed during a tick check. However, if you do find one, check to see if there is a circular black spot, known as the shield, above the mouthparts. The Shield does not change as the tick engorges and is one of the key factors in identifying the deer tick. The nymph deer tick is very small, about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. As the nymph’s mature into adult ticks, they are still small measuring about 1/5 of an inch.
Before heading outdoors to enjoy the weather, take steps to protect yourself from these small but harmful parasites. If possible, wear long pants and tuck them into your shoes, which makes it harder for the ticks to find their way onto your skin. Spray your pant legs and shoes with permethrin or another tick spray to keep them away. Using a tick spray such as YAYA Organic Tick Ban (sold at all ClearChoiceMD locations) or Deet on any exposed skin will help prevent them from attaching. After coming inside from the outdoors, check yourself and others, such as children, dogs and elders, for ticks. Although ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care centers do not deal with canine tick removal or treatment, our furry friends are tick highways, at no fault of their own.
Removing ticks before they become attached is always the best way to prevent Lyme disease. If a tick does become embedded there are many ways to try and remove them. Here are the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendation:
How to remove a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
It’s important to perform regular checks and promptly remove attached ticks. If you’ve been bitten, closely monitor your health for possible signs and symptoms of Lyme disease. Antibiotics are available and most effective when begun early.
If you experience Lyme disease symptoms, seek evaluation by a healthcare professional skilled in tick bite management and the treatment and prevention of Lyme disease. ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care centers offer comprehensive services including tick removal, and Lyme disease testing and treatment.
Dr. Thomas H. Scott
For more information about ticks and Lyme disease, visit the CDC’s website: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html.