Submitted by Carol Tomlinson, RN BS
Community Health Educator
Ticks: Summer Pests With Serious Consequences
Summer has arrived in all its glory. We relish the warm weather and the many outdoor activities it allows. However, we must also contend with some of the pests of the season. Bugs and flying insects can become very annoying, bees and wasps are often frightening, and we won’t even talk about ants!
There is another common summer pest than can be much more than a nuisance. Certain species of ticks found in our area can carry Lyme and other diseases. Cornell University researchers published a recent study that found Lyme disease in the Northeastern U.S. is rising at significant rates. This disease can be severe and sometimes fatal, but there are steps we can take to protect ourselves from coming into contact with these summer pests.
Ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They also cling to tall grasses, brush and shrubs no more than 12-18 inches off the ground. Ticks are most prevalent from April through September with August and September being peak season. There are many species of ticks but the black legged tick is the one that carries Lyme disease. These ticks are about the size of a poppy seeds to sesame seeds. They are much smaller than the also common dog-tick.
In order to protect ourselves from ticks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:
- Wear light colored long pants and long sleeved shirts, closed toe shoes, and tuck the legs of the pants into your socks.
- Use bug spray – 20% or greater DEET is recommended. Do not spray repellent under clothes.
- Treat clothing with a product containing permethrin. Do not spray it on your skin.
- Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails and avoid dense woods and bushy areas.
- Avoid sitting directly on the ground or stone walls.
- Keep long hair tied back.
- Check for ticks after being outdoors. Do a full body check (especially warm areas) and bathe as soon as possible.
- Check your animals for ticks.
How to safely remove a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick.
- After removing it, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or warm, soapy water.
- Dispose of the tick by submersing it in alcohol, wrap it in tape or flush it. DO NOT crush the tick with your fingers.
If you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms with a fever up to several weeks after being bitten, be sure to contact your physician. Tell your provider about your recent tick bite, when it occurred and where you most likely acquired the tick. It is important for you and your family to be tick-free to prevent Lyme disease. Being vigilant is your best prevention!
For more information, contact your county health department, NYS Department of Health at nysdoh.gov, or HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our new wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.