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Summertime often leads to outdoor adventures like hiking or camping. That fact rings even more true this summer, as COVID-19 pushes everyone outdoors for entertainment and fellowship.
Outdoor activities may be safer when it comes to a pandemic, but other factors may pose a health risk, including ticks.
Ticks are especially prevalent in rural areas, farms, nature centers, or state parks. Though rare, there are reported cases of tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease in Ohio, including five cases recently confirmed in Clark County.
With blacklegged ticks becoming more prevalent in Ohio, it’s especially important to be cautious around these pesky bugs.
Tick prevention tips
The best way to fight tick-borne illnesses is to prevent them altogether. Kendall Erdahl, MD, Kettering Health family medicine physician, recommends using these tactics to keep the ticks away:
- Wear long sleeves and pants, tucking your pants into hiking boots or socks, so ticks can’t easily get up under your clothing.
- Opt for light-colored clothing, such as khaki pants, rather than a darker jean, so ticks are easier to spot and brush off before they bite.
- Use an insect repellent spray, especially around cuffs, socks, and other access points in outerwear.
- Do a body check when you return home, removing all clothing, and scanning your skin. Use a mirror to inspect hard-to-see areas, such as the groin and hairline, where ticks especially likely to hide.
“It’s worthwhile to look and see if they’re crawling on you if you can catch them before they bite you,” Dr. Erdahl says.
Caring for bites
If you do find a tick on you, there are a few things you can do.
“If it’s fat and plump instead of really thin, it’s probably already bitten you,” says Dr. Erdahl.
Ticks that are embedded in the skin should be removed using a pair of sharp, pointy tweezers.
“Grasp near the head, not the body, and pull straight up,” Dr. Erdhal says. “If part of the head remains, it’s likely your body will expel it over time.”
It’s important to avoid squeezing the body, as this could expel disease the tick is carrying, putting you at risk for infection. Once you’ve removed the tick, place it in rubbing alcohol and either put it in a plastic bag before discarding it or flush it down the toilet.
If you see symptoms
After getting a tick bite, monitor yourself for symptoms of infection, as these will indicate whether you need to see a physician.
“If you see a big red bump or a rash, or if you start getting fevers, body aches, or chills, that’s definitely worth coming in to get looked at,” Dr. Erdahl says.
While it’s best not to panic, these symptoms may indicate an illness related to the tick bite, in which case you should not wait to seek treatment.
Your physician can also assist in removing portions of the tick you aren’t able to extract.
“We’d like to get the whole head out, but even if it doesn’t happen, most of the time, it doesn’t cause a problem,” says Dr. Erdahl. “That is something we can see you for, though.”