As the calendar turns to spring and ticks emerge, it is time to check if you were bit by a tick after going outdoors to ensure timely tick removal. Three types of ticks to look out for, whether you’re in your own backyard or traveling to another state, include the blacklegged (deer) tick, Lone Star tick and American dog (wood) tick.
Preventing a tick from embedding in the skin is key
You can take proactive steps to avoid contact with ticks such as applying a tick repellent, wearing appropriate protective outdoor clothing and checking for ticks on your clothing and body after being outdoors. The best insect repellents contain 20-30% DEET, 10-20% Picaridin, 15–20% IR3535, or 30–40% oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and clothing. Parents should pay extra attention using repellents on their children and strictly adhere to the manufacturers’ directions for use.
Finding a tick crawling on you or your clothing is a common occurrence and does not mean you have been exposed to a tick-borne disease. Finding you are bit by a tick and it is embedded in your skin does, however, increase your risk for acquiring a disease and such ticks should promptly be removed when found.
“Tick exposure is a fact-of-life in our region, and the importance of prevention cannot be underestimated,” said Dr. Tom Fritsche of the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. “While some individuals who acquire Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases do not recall finding a tick on them, most do recall being in an area where they may have been exposed. The use of repellents is a necessary prevention strategy in limiting exposure to ticks as well as wearing light-colored clothing to help identify ticks when attached.”
Tick-borne illnesses and Lyme disease symptoms
If you’ve taken the precautions mentioned above but still manage to find a tick embedded in the skin, be alert for early symptoms of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
“Early symptoms of infection can mimic viral infections such as influenza and include a combination of headache, chills, nausea, fever, body aches, and pains and fatigue, among others,” Dr. Fritsche said. “A slowly expanding rash may also develop in about a week at the site where a tick had attached and would be suspicious specifically for Lyme disease.”
Appropriate tick removal
Proper removal of the tick and disposal is important. Use the following steps to ensure you remove the whole tick. Follow these tips for proper tick removal:
If you have symptoms of tick-borne illness and have been exposed to ticks in the past month, talk with your provider.
For tick removal help, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.
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