“Lyme disease is the most frequently reported tick-borne illness in the United States, and people of all ages can be infected. There is no vaccine currently available to prevent Lyme disease or most tick-borne disease, so early detection and treatment is important,” explains Dr. R. Timothy Fitzner, Emergency Room Physician at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital. “I urge area residents to be watchful for tick bites. Taking preventive measures against ticks is a good idea all year, although it is especially important to be extra vigilant in the summer months. If you or a member of your family experience fever, headache, fatigue, a rash after a tick bite, or local redness at the bite site, seek medical treatment.”
Three common adults ticks found in the United States are black-legged ticks commonly called deer ticks, lone star ticks, and the American dog tick commonly called wood ticks. In our area, the black-legged tick, which is very tiny, the size of the head of a pin, can transmit Lyme disease. Lone star ticks have been linked to ehrlichiosis. The American dog tick can carry diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Some ticks can transmit more than one pathogen.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list these steps to reduce the risk of tick bites:
- Avoid areas with lots of ticks:
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Take extra precautions late spring through early fall when ticks that transmit disease are active.
- Walk in the center of the trail when in the woods or high grass.
- Ask local health department and park or extension service about tick infested areas to avoid.
- Use tick medicine or collars on dogs and cats. Check pets regularly for ticks.
- Keep ticks off your skin
- Apply insect repellent with 20% DEET or more on skin and clothing when you go outdoors (for kids too). Don’t spray repellent on skin under clothing.
- Permethrin sprayed on clothing kills ticks on contact and provides protection through several washings. Don’t use permethrin on skin.
- Cover up! Wear long pants, long sleeves, and long socks. Light-colored clothing will help you spot ticks more easily. Tucking pant legs into socks or boots and tucking shirts into pants help keep ticks on the outside of clothing.
- Perform a tick checklist
- Remove ticks from your clothes before going indoors. Wash your clothing with hot water and dry them using high heat for at least one hour.
- Check your body and your child’s body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Use a mirror to view all parts of your body (in armpits, behind ears, in groin, etc.) and remove any ticks you find.
- Safely remove ticks. Early tick removal may reduce the risk of infection of some tick-borne diseases. Follow these steps to safely remove ticks from animals and humans.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers and protect bare hands with a tissue or gloves to avoid contact with tick fluids.
- Grab the tick close to the skin. Do not twist or jerk the tick, as this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skins.
- Gently pull straight up until all parts of the tick are removed.
- After removing the tick, wash your hands with soap and water or waterless alcohol-based hand rub. Clean the tick bite with an antiseptic such as iodine scrub, rubbing alcohol, or soap and water.
- Contact your healthcare provider if you develop fever, headache, fatigue, rash or joint symptoms.
Dr. Fitzner adds, “Individuals and families are enjoying the outdoors this summer as they picnic, hike and camp. Please check yourself and your family regularly for ticks and shower or bathe after potential exposure to ticks. And remember, if you suspect you have received a tick bite, please contact your healthcare provider.”
Dr. Fitzner is one of physicians that staff the Emergency Department 24/7 at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital. Urgent Care Hours are Monday through Friday: 5:30 to 9:30 pm, and weekends and holidays: 10 am to 9:30 pm.