Pack away those sweaters and grab your cargo shorts – Warmer weather is on the way! While the change in season brings sunshine and milder temperatures, it also comes with a few caveats.
Seasonal allergies, spring cleanup and one of nature’s smallest but most dangerous species: the tick.
Ticks are most active during warmer months, however, exposure can occur year-round.
Besides being nature’s little vampire, ticks can carry many viruses, bacteria, and infections that can all be transmitted via a single bite.
Tick-borne infections are zoonotic — meaning they are passed from animals to humans. Similar to pests like mosquitos and fleas, ticks acquire diseases from rats and other small animals that they can then pass on to humans.
In addition, they carry on all of the infections inherited from their parents, meaning these tiny little SOBs could be potentially riddled with everything from Lyme disease to… well… some shit even scientists haven’t heard of before. Yikes.
So what can you do?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a few tips to help prevent exposure in the first place:
Know where to expect ticks.
Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin.
Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents
EPA’s helpful search tool can help you find the product that best suits your needs.
While prevention is great, preparedness is even better.
Instead of panicking in the event you find a tick on you or your child – trying to google that tick removal video you saw on Facebook – why not make a tick kit right now?
What’s a tick kit you ask? Simple: a pair of tweezers, alcohol swabs, a few index cards to take notes, a Sharpie, and some clear tape tossed together in a Ziploc bag.
Sounds simple enough. You can even get fancy with these tick tweezers. Otherwise, you likely already have all these things just sitting around. But why add the frustration of looking for them in an emergency?
According to the CDC, if you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic—the key is to remove the tick as soon as possible.
Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.
How to remove a tick
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. You can dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
However, it’s a good idea to hold on to the dead tick with a few notes just in case you develop symptoms a few days or weeks later. This will help your physician identify the type of tick and have important information such as the date of the site and the location where it happened.
Tape the dead tick to an index card and write down as much information as possible.
Websites such as TickReport.com can even test these specimens. The tests are not intended to be a substitute for disease testing in humans, nor should the results be interpreted as providing a diagnosis. Personal information is kept in strict confidence, but the results of your tick test are made publicly available for people to see where ticks are found, when they are biting people, and what disease-causing microbes they are transmitting.
Now that you’ve removed and cataloged the little sucker, monitor the bite area closely. Symptoms are not always immediate and can present up to 30 days from the initial bite.
If you’re unable to remove the tick or you’re concerned there may be an infection, head to the nearest urgent care center or call your physician immediately.
While this all may sound like overkill, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Many of us have life insurance and health insurance. What’s wrong with a little tick insurance?
So don’t wait – make the kit. Right now!
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