Wednesday, July 31st, 2019
It seems like every year we have some new disease or insect to fear. From swine flu to mosquito illnesses that can affect unborn children, we always find ourselves in fear as we go about our daily routines. Ticks are one of these new, yet also old, fears that keeps reappearing. The last 2 years though, we hear that the dangers of ticks has increased year over year and more people are being affected by disease, most notably Lyme disease. I personally know someone who was bit by a tick years ago and just recently found out that a majority of their health issues are from Lyme disease that was contracted years prior, from that single bite. This individual has gone through countless doctor appointments, infusion drug therapy, and had pains and symptoms that made them feel like they were dying. It literally took years before they felt even partially normal and now the fear to go outside and potentially encounter another tick with Lyme disease weighs on them as they go about their life. If you, like me, fear ticks then you should move to Hawaii where they, at last report, had no known cases of tick bites or related infections. Mind you, if I have enough money to move to Hawaii it’s for 1000 more reasons than not having ticks!
Now that we all officially fear Ticks, except those that live in Hawaii of course, how can we protect ourselves? It is recommended that you use EPA registered insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. While serving in the military, we faced many insects; one of which was ticks. A Soldier in my company decided to purchase insect repellant collars that are for dogs and use them around his ankles, over his boots. He didn’t have any issues with bugs that day, but did find himself in the MASH due to severe chemical burns to his skin. He was sweating through his socks and boots which allowed the concentrated chemicals in the bands to transfer to his skin. I wanted to pass along that story as a way to communicate the need to be careful when applying preventative products. As a rule of thumb at my house, we only apply DEET products on clothing and shoes, not on our bare skin unless it is completely necessary. That may not be the rule or recommendations, but that is how we do it because yes we don’t want to come into contact with ticks, but we also don’t want to be overly exposed to chemicals.
What happens if you find yourself with a tick? The best plan these days is to safely remove the tick if you have the tool, yes they make a tick removal tool, or have knowledge and experience using tweezers. Avoid folklore remedies such as using nail polish, petroleum jelly, or heat to make the tick detach from the skin. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water. If you can, save the tick in a bag, bottle or anything you can seal. Call your doctor immediately and ask them if you should have the tick evaluated and tested for disease.
Be careful in the great outdoors, educate your children, protect yourself, your family and your pets.