With everyone’s attention focused this year on the novel coronavirus pandemic, it would be easy to overlook another seasonal health concern: ticks.
Ticks are carriers of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, which is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in New York State.
As people head outdoors now that the weather is getting warmer, there are plenty of opportunities for them to be bitten by a tick and become infected. Fortunately, most tick-borne infections such as Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics — especially if infection is detected early.
But the best safeguard is to remove these pests from your body. Public health officials in the four-county GLOW region recommend several measures:
n Wear enclosed shoes and light-colored clothing to easily spot ticks. And tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants when walking in wooded and grassy areas or when gardening.
n Use repellent containing 20 to 30 percent DEET. Spray it on shoes, clothing and hats. Avoid spraying it directly onto the skin.
n Shower after being outdoors. Put clothing into the dryer for 20 minutes to kill any remaining ticks that you may not have seen.
n Conduct a daily full-body tick check. Pay close attention to the back of the knees, behind the ears, scalp, arm pits, groin area and back. Check for ticks on children as well.
“If ticks are detected, the risk of tick-borne infection is significantly reduced if the tick is removed from the body within the first 36 hours,” according to the Genesee Orleans County Departments of Health.
To effectively remove a tick, the entire body of the tick must be removed from the skin.
The Public Health Department recommends using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick’s neck near the mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible, pulling upward with steady pressure. Follow up the removal by washing the bite area with soap and water.
People are typically not aware of a tick bite until symptoms appear, which is why doing a daily tick check is so important, health officials said.
Symptoms may include severe fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headache, fever, joint swelling, facial paralysis or rash. Some people may experience a sudden red lesion known as the bull’s-eye rash on their bodies.”
As they spend a lot of time outside, companion animals are particularly vulnerable to tick bites. Pets are likely to transport ticks into homes if not detected and removed beforehand.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are no vaccines available for dogs for most tick-borne diseases. Therefore, preventive measures are essential.
“Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tick-borne disease may not appear for seven to 21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick,” the CDC reported on its website. “Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any tick prevention products to your cats without first asking your veterinarian.”
Check your pets daily and remove any ticks that are found. Consult your veterinarian about the best products to keep ticks from infecting your pet.
Take precautions to avoid developing tick-borne diseases. Visit http://wdt.me/obg5ng (measures for humans) and http://wdt.me/bapPUo (tips for pets) for more information on the best ways to prevent this.