CENTRAL MA REGIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH ALLIANCE OFFERS TICK PROTECTION TIPS
Protect Yourself and Family from Ticks This Spring
The nice weather is upon us and as we start spending more time outdoors during spring and into summer, we have to be aware of the risk of tick-borne illness such as Lyme Disease. Gardening, camping, hiking, and just playing outdoors are all great spring and summertime activities. Preventing tick bites should be a part of your outdoor plans. People become infected with the Lyme disease bacteria when they are bitten by an infected blacklegged tick.
Fortunately there are several tactics you and your family can use to prevent tick bites and reduce your risk of tick-borne disease.
Protect Yourself from Tick Bites:
- Know where to expect ticks. Blacklegged ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs. To avoid ticks, walk in the center of trails.
- Use a repellent with DEET (on skin or clothing) or permethrin (on clothing and gear). Products containing permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear which can remain protective through several washings. Repellents containing 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can be applied to the skin, and they can protect up to several hours. Always follow product instructions! Parents should apply repellents to their children, taking care to avoid application to hands, eyes, and mouth.
Perform Daily Tick Checks:
- Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Conduct a body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas by searching your entire body for ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body and remove any tick you find. Take special care to check these parts of your body and your child's body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around all head and body hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
- Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has shown to reduce your risk of being bitten by a tick.
- Check your children for ticks, especially in the hair, when returning from potentially tick-infested areas. See the list above for the places on your child's body to check for ticks. Remove any tick you find on your child's body.
- Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Placing clothes into a dryer on high heat for at least an hour effectively kills ticks.
- Examine your pets. Ticks can be carried into the home on pets as well. Check your animals often for ticks to avoid them dropping the insects onto furniture or floors.
What to Do If You Are Bitten by a Tick or You Find a Tick on Your Body:
If you find a tick attached to your skin it is important to remove it properly. Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the part of the tick that is closest to your skin—you want to grab the head, not the belly. Slowly pull the tick straight out, without twisting it. Wash the bite site with soap and warm water. Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible—not waiting for it to detach.
There may be a “bulls-eye” rash, and a flat or slightly raised red spot at the site of a tick bite. If you have a tick bite and develop this rash and/or symptoms which may include chills, fever, headache, muscle pain or stiff neck, you should seek medical attention immediately.