Yet, with all the rain, moisture and flooding comes another problem: Ticks. Many news sources have reported that this year is expected to be a record breaking season for ticks. Lucky us!
If you live in an urban area, with plenty of concrete and skyscrapers, there isn’t much threat from this blood-sucking parasite. However, if you live in a more suburban or rural area, or plan on escaping the city to go camping or hiking, you'll need to be more vigilant. Ticks are usually most active from April until September and they can attach to you, your children, or your pets.
And ticks are no mere nuisance. They can be dangerous disease spreaders, especially when removed improperly.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are parasites, which means that they need a host (people or animals) in order to survive. They primarily live in grassy, wooded areas and come in all sizes. When a tick finds a host (that's you), they bury their head within the skin of their victim, and get to work. This can be dangerous as well as creepy, as there is the very real risk of transmitting Lyme disease, which ticks are known to carry.
Symptoms of a tick bite usually start with pain, itching, redness and swelling in the area of the skin, although you can have a tick (or three) burrowed in your skin without even feeling a thing. The early symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and/or a skin rash. If left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.
How Can You Prevent Tick Bites?
When outdoors, especially in high grass or wooded areas, make sure to use repellents that contain 20% or more DEET (yes, even if wearing long sleeve clothing) and especially on exposed skin. If possible, wear light colored clothing and tuck pants into socks, shirts into pants, etc. to block ticks from reaching your skin. When coming inside after being outdoors, take the time to do a full body check.
On children and pets, look under arms, behind ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between legs, around the waist and through hair. Also make sure to check any gear that was taken along, including clothing. A helpful tip is to put clothes in the dryer on high heat for at least an hour. It's also a good idea to shower as soon as possible.
A Surprisingly Safe & Effective Way to Remove Ticks
If you do find a tick, many people believe that the correct way to remove it is to use a pair of tweezers to grab the tick, and then pull it out firmly. This can work, but unfortunately, if the tick is in an area where tweezers can’t reach, or if the tick is removed improperly it can leave you with a mangled tick, with bits still stuck in the skin. Yuck.
A safer and much easier method has recently made the news, and all that's required is some liquid soap and a cotton ball or tissue.
- Apply a dime sized dollop of dish or hand soap onto a damp paper towel, tissue, or cotton ball.
- Cover the tick with the soap-saturated tissue or cotton ball, and hold in place for a few seconds (15-20).
- The tick will come out all on its own and will be stuck on the towel or cotton ball when you lift it away.
- So easy!
Have a great Summer!