By Dr Daliah
Tick season has started earlier this year, approximately one to two months earlier, due to the mild winter; and although some people usually take precautions during tick season, many this year may be unprepared.
Ticks carry bacteria and parasites and can cause serious disease. In Minnesota, patients already are testing positive for tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. These tick-born diseases cause multiple symptoms including rash, muscle aches, joint pain, fever, abnormal blood cell counts, neurological deficits such as Bell’s Palsy and even meningitis, which can be fatal.
Avoidance of ticks is your first defense, i.e. stay out of areas that have shrubs and tall grasses. Wear long clothing to protect your skin, and if you need to walk through high grassy areas, tuck long pants into your shoes or boots. On uncovered skin, you may use an insect repellant. When returning indoors check for ticks. Most are brown or reddish brown but lighten after feeding. Some ticks can be as large as a centimeter and some are smaller than a fleck of pepper.
When you find a tick, how do you remove it? Now many of my listeners have called in with the “Light a match” trick where you light a match, blow it out and gently put the heated match on the back of the tick causing it to jump. As a doctor, I can’t recommend this technique because burning the tick can release its fluids increasing your exposure (even though the match technique sounds really cool!).
Find a tweezers or if you don’t have a tweezers, glove your hands. You never want to touch a tick with bare hands. Grab the mouth/head of the tick and pull it straight out till the mouth has detached from the skin. Do not twist, or you may sever the head and leave it embedded. Do not grab the tick by the abdomen or you can squeeze its contents into your body. If you start to experience fever, rash, pain in the bite area, swollen lymph nodes, or red streaks, seek medical attention immediately. Save the tick in a glass jar in case symptoms ensue and your medical professional wishes to evaluate the tick that bit you.
Spring and summer are the best time of year for enjoying the outdoors, so enjoy yourself. Just don’t let ticks make you their meal!
Daliah Wachs, MD