Ticks can pose life threatening dangers if they bite. The most important thing to know and be aware of is the prevention of ticks both large and small.
St. Francois County Health Department Assistant Director Amber Elliott said because of their size, ticks might not be noticed until it’s too late. She also stressed that it’s a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, but be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.
“The best thing to do is to stay away from tick habitats by avoiding wooded or brushy areas with high grass where ticks are likely to be, which I know is really tough this time of year,” said Elliot. “Also wearing protective clothing by covering as much of the body as you can.”
She added that tucking pants into the boots, wearing light colored clothing, and really checking your body well when you get indoors will help keep the little biters at bay.
Also, using repellents that have 20 percent DEET or more will protect you for several hours. You can use products that contain Permethrin on clothing, gear, boots, pants, socks and tents … but Permethrin should not be used on the skin. The good news is, however, that Permethrin can remain protective through several washings.
“We haven’t seen an unusual amount of cases this year involving tick reported illnesses. They have been about the same as what we normally see,” Elliot added. Cases can involve Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis.
Other tick borne diseases include Tularemia, Q-fever, Lyme or a Lyme-like disease, and the southern tick-associated rash illness.
Symptoms of a tick borne illness can include fever, headaches, joint pains or muscle aches and chills.
Usually the symptoms can be seen within 1-2 weeks of a tick bite. The nymphal and adult ticks are more frequently associated with transmission of Anaplasmosis to humans.
“Our area doesn’t have a Lyme Disease carrying tick, and that is a misconception by many,” said Elliott. “We are just now getting into the warmer weather and people are in tick habitats, so we are just getting started.”
Elliot added there may be a rash in the area around the tick bite. She said the Lone Star tick bite shows symptoms that are similar to Lyme Disease.
It has also been reported that the Lone Star tick bite can spread a disease causing the Alpha-Gal allergy, or “meat allergy”. It is a delayed allergy to mammal meat affecting a growing number of the population.
Since the reaction to eating mammal meat is delayed by several hours, the proper diagnosis is often missed or misdiagnosed. People who are afflicted with the Alpha-Gal allergy have to be constantly vigilant about the ingredients they consume, because an allergic reaction can be severe and life-threatening.
“Sometimes we think we haven’t had a tick bite, but sometimes they bite us and fall off,” said Elliot. “They don’t always stay attached, so I would recommend that anyone who has those symptoms see a doctor.”
Elliot said there are wrong ways to remove a tick and that is also an important thing to know. The worst thing you can do is pinch the tick to remove it. What you are doing is squeezing that tick like a hypodermic and injecting everything from that tick right through the mouth and into your skin.
If you don’t grab them correctly, which is right by their mouth, closest to the skin, you’re just injecting their contents into your body.
“It’s recommended to use a fine tip tweezer to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible,” said Elliott. “Pull upward with steady pressure, don’t twist or jerk the tick because that can cause the mouth to break off in the skin.
“If that happens, remove the mouth part with the tweezers. After removing the tick, clean the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.”
Elliott said dispose of a live tick by submerging it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet. She added you should never crush a tick with your fingers. Never use gasoline, kerosene, petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, or matches to kill or drive a tick out once it has been embedded.
According to the Centers of Disease Control, they recommend bathing or showering as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks which have made it onto the body.
They also recommend doing a full-body tick check using a handheld or full length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas.
Parents should check their children for ticks by looking under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, clothing and day packs.
Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after returning indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed.
If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks effectively. If the clothing cannot be washed in hot water, tumble dry on low heat for 90 minutes or high heat for 60 minutes. The clothes should be warm and completely dry.