Spring is here (and so are ticks and other critters)! Depending on location and other factors, approximately 51% of ticks carry Lyme or another tick-borne disease. They also carry other potentially harmful pathogens, such as Bartonella and Babesia.
We have discussed Lyme in our other articles, but the point of this article is to discuss some of the prevention strategies that you can do to prevent Lyme. Springtime and Fall are generally the seasons for when ticks are most prevalent and so extra vigilance is advised.
- Avoid heavily wooded areas, lakes, marshes, tall grassy areas. If you must go into these areas, make sure your wear pants and a long sleeve shirt and hat and make sure your clothes are treated (see below).
- Check for ticks on your pets! If you have a pet, you are more than twice likely to be bitten by a tick! PetArmor Plus for Dogs is a fast-acting topical that kills fleas, flea eggs, flea larvae, ticks, and chewing lice for up to 30 days. Reapply monthly to kick pests to the curb year-round. For more info, see this link.
- Reduce debris in your yard. Ticks like to hang out in damp moist and dark areas. Reducing overgrown grass and tribes can go a long way in reducing tick populations.
- Mature Japanese barberry is the perfect height for questing adult ticks to attach themselves to deer as they pass by. Eliminating Japanese Barberry will decrease the number of black-legged ticks which in turn will significantly reduce the risk of Lyme disease.
- For insect repellant use a repellant containing the insecticide called DEET; however, this can be toxic to the body long term, so if you want an alternative, look at Cedarcide. Cedar essential oil has been shown to repel ticks very well. You do need to apply it more often, so every one to two hours is recommended.
- Spray your clothes and socks and shoes with permethrin, allow to dry (you must allow to dry, otherwise it is toxic), and wear when going outside. This process can be a bit cumbersome, so look into Insect Shield, a service that will do this for you.
- After you have been outside, especially in areas where you may suspect ticks, do a thorough check for ticks. Check the scalp, hairline, under socks, especially in underarm areas, and around the waistline.
- Tumble dry clothing on high heat for at least ten minutes, or wash first in hot water.
- Showering within two hours of coming indoors helps wash off unattached ticks and gives you a chance to thoroughly check your body.
- For more information, see CDC guidelines for tick prevention.
What to do if you are bitten by a tick?
- Remove the tick with tweezers or a special device called a Tick Twister. Do not use a match! You want to the whole body, arms, legs, and especially the head.
- Call your doctor! If you do not develop a bulls-eye rash the standard protocol in most primary care office settings and urgent care is a test for Lyme disease. Our opinion on this is that this is futile because Lyme takes many weeks or months to show up in the blood as antibodies. Even so, the Western blot, which is the standard test used to check for Lyme is woefully inadequate. If your doctor suspects Lyme, most likely you will be given a single dose of doxycycline. Our opinion is that this is woefully inadequate and most likely a longer course is needed. The latest consensus from mind experts is that a combination of antibiotics needed over a 10 to 14 day period to reduce the incidence of Lyme moving and an asymptomatic patient. NOTE: This is for the treatment of acute Lyme. Treating chronic Lyme involves a much different treatment strategy.
- Send the tick off for analysis. Services such as Tickcheck.com can determine with 99.99% accuracy if the tick that bit you carries Lyme or 10 additional tick-borne diseases. Pricing ranges from $50 -$200.
- Monitor for symptoms of Lyme disease and report to your personal medical authority any of the following: Bulls-eye rash, fever, muscle aches, malaise, flu-like symptoms, etc.
What to do if you are bitten by another insect, such as an ant, spider, wasp, or another insect?
Often many patients develop a painful welt on the skin don't know what they were bitten by. Oftentimes, patients wake up with these and don't know if they were bitten from something outside or inside the home. If it was inside the home most often it is a spider. Unfortunately, these insects can also carry Lyme disease and other pathogens and so one must exercise caution and monitor these as well. Seek medical advice if you develop swelling, rashes, or fevers. Sometimes localized cellulitis or secondary bacterial infections can develop around the area and these often require antibiotics. The problem is that many positions in primary and urgent care did not follow up on these bites after they are treated and remains the possibility of long-term infection if left untreated.
If you suspect that you have been bitten by a tick or other insect, please call our office immediately for advice and treatment.
Preventing Tick Bites on People https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/on_people.html