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Did you know that tick bites are second only to mosquito bites when it comes to spreading diseases? Think about it, the little arthropod spends its entire life drinking the blood of other animals and people. Of course it is going to have all sorts of nasty toxins in its saliva! Obviously, avoiding tick bites in the first place is the best way to avoid getting sick, but it’s also important to know what to do if you do find a tick on you. Following these summer safety tips for dealing with tick bites can help keep your family healthier in the long run.
Diseases Caused by Tick Bites
Before getting into the summer safety tips to avoid tick bites, it’s important to understand exactly why it’s so important to keep these nasty critters away from your family. Ticks carry a number of different diseases. Some vary depending on the region of the world they’re found in and the type of tick that bites you. The majority of the diseases are treated with antibiotics. . Unfortunately, the CDC is reporting a nationwide shortage of doxycycline, the antibiotic that works best against these disease. Following basic summer safety tips to prevent tick bites is more important than ever right now.
Lyme disease– Just about everyone has heard of this disease associated with tick bites! It is caused by blacklegged species of ticks, such as deer ticks. It is often characterized by a bulls eye rash surrounding the area of the tick bite. Symptoms include fever, fatigue and headache. It is important to get treatment right away, as Lyme disease can spread into the joints and nervous system. Treatment usually involves taking antibiotics for several weeksLyme disease is most common in the Northeastern parts of the United States as well as some of the Great Lakes regions. Health Canada reports that Lyme disease is increasing in some Canadian regions as well, particularly British Columbia.
Anaplasmosis- Also caused by blacklegged ticks, anaplasmosis can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms typically begin about a week or two after the tick bite appears. Symptoms can range from fever and headaches to chills, vomiting and confusion. Rashes are rare with anaplasmosis, so you don’t get a warning like you do with Lyme disease. While the fatality rate is less than 1 percent, it is vital to get treatment as soon as possible to avoid major complication. Worst case scenarios include hemorrhaging and kidney failure. Anaplasmosis is most common along the East Coast and in the Mid-West.
Ehrlichiosis- Those living in the southeastern and south-central part of the United States need to follow summer safety tips to avoid the nasty Lonestar tick! This critter can carry the potentially fatal ehrlichiosis. Symptoms vary, but may include fever, headache, chills, a general feeling of fatigue, nausea and vomiting. It can also cause conjunctivitis (more commonly known as pink eye). Rash can occur, although this is more common in children.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever- Despite the name, this serious illness doesn’t just occur in the Rocky Mountain regions. In fact, it can be found in just about every state and throughout parts of Canada and Mexico. The disease typically begins within two weeks after the tick bite and can be difficult to diagnose at first. Symptoms may include rash, fever, vomiting, abdominal pain similar to appendicitis and lack of appetite. When treated early, Rocky Mountain spotted fever typically resolves without complications. If left untreated, it can be fatal.
Summer safety tips to avoid tick bites
Following summer safety tips to avoid tick bites in the first place is the best way to keep your family safe. While these tips are helpful year round, ticks are out in full force from April through September.
- Wear pants and long sleeves when practical– Wearing long pants and sleeves is one of the best summer safety tips to avoid tick bites, but it’s also the least practical. No one wants to cover up from head to toe when it’s sweltering out. Still, if it’s cool enough to do so without risking heat stroke, cover up!
- Avoid heavily wooded areas. Stay out of the woods as much as possible during the summer months. If you’re going hiking, stick to trails rather than traipsing through uncharted territory! At the very least, stay away from high grass or areas with a lot of leaves laying on the ground.
- Use insect repellents. While there is still a lot of controversy surrounding the safety of DEET, it is one of the best defenses against ticks. Look for products with a concentration of 20% DEET and follow the basic safety instructions on the bottle.
- Hit the showers. As soon as you come in from outdoors, head to the showers to wash off and inspect your body for ticks. Check children over very carefully too. Focus on areas where ticks can hide. Do a thorough check of your child’s hair, underarms, belly button and between the legs.
- Check your pets. Even if you follow all the summer safety tips to avoid tick bites, your pets can still bring in the nasty critter. Check them daily and use a flea and tick medicine to kill any ticks that get on them.
- Maintain your lawn. Cutting your grass and cleaning up leaf litter in your yard doesn’t just keep it beautiful, it can also reduce the number of ticks in the area. Adding a 3-foot woodchip or gravel barrier between your lawn and the woods is also a good way to keep them from migrating to your yard.
Following these summer safety tips to avoid tick bites can help keep your family safer, but they’re not a guarantee that you will never get bitten by a tick. If you do find a tick on your body or that of your child’s, remove it promptly. The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it as close to the head as possible with a pair of tweezers. Gently remove the tick and keep it in a container. Put the container in the freezer to save in case your doctor needs to see it. Keep an eye out for symptoms of tick-related diseases and contact your doctor right away if you notice any of the signs.
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