Summer is laze-in-the-sun-sipping-lemonade season. It’s barbecue and baseball season. And unfortunately, it’s tick season.
These little bloodsucking parasites spread disease — including Lyme disease, which can cause long-term complications like muscle and joint aches — and about a dozen other nasty illnesses. (The names are bad enough: ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, borrelia mayonii…)
And there are signs that the problem of ticks and other tiny biters is getting worse: The number of people getting diseases from tick, mosquito and flea bites more than tripled in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016.
Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent tick bites without shutting yourself inside.
Take this quiz to test your knowledge:
True or False: Ticks can fly and will jump on you as you pass them.
False. Thank goodness. But ticks do wait for a host — that’s us, or an animal — by resting on the tops of grasses or shrubs. When the host brushes by them, they climb on. That’s why it’s good to wear long pants, tucked into socks, especially if you’re going to be in grassy or wooded areas.
True or False: You can treat your clothing with a chemical to repel ticks.
True. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using 0.5 percent permethrin, an insecticide. Make sure to follow instructions and use the spray in a well-ventilated area. You can also buy pre-treated clothes.
True or False: When checking for ticks, you don’t have to worry about the hair.
False. Ticks will absolutely burrow in your hair, as well as other warm, potentially moist areas of the body. After you come inside, check for ticks: under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and yes, in and around the hair.
True or False: You must take precautions when putting insect repellants on babies.
True. To prevent ticks, you’ll want to use an Environmental Protection Agency-recommended insect repellant. But never use a repellent on a baby younger than 2 months old, and don’t use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on any children younger than 3 years old. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have questions about safe use.
True or False: You can’t shower off a tick.
False. If the tick hasn’t attached, you definitely can. Research has shown that showering soon after being outside reduces the risk of tickborne illness. While you’re in there, you can give yourself a once-over to look for ticks.
True or False: If a tick attaches to you, you want to remove it as quickly as possible.
True. Use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible and pull upward. Avoid any twisting or jerking motions, as this can cause the tick’s mouth parts to remain under the skin.
True or False: You can kill a tick by painting it with nail polish.
False. Some corners of the internet recommend covering a tick with nail polish, nail polish remover or petroleum jelly to “suffocate it,” or even trying to burn it with a match. These methods are not proven and may end up causing more damage, like a burn. Use the tweezer method outlined in No. 6.
True or False: If you’re bitten by a tick, you should immediately go to the doctor.
False, but… Keep a close eye on how you’re feeling and see a doctor if you develop any symptoms, including aches and pains, fever and chills, or a rash. Tickborne illnesses can range from mild to very severe, so take any and all symptoms seriously.
True or False: You can’t have Lyme disease without the distinctive bull’s-eye rash.
False. The rash occurs in about 70 to 80 percent of people infected with Lyme disease, but not everyone. It usually begins at the site of the tick bite after a delay of about a week (but can be anywhere from three to 30 days later). A very similar-looking rash occurs with southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), a less serious condition caused by the bite of a lone star tick. Lone star ticks do not cause Lyme disease.
True or False: A tick bite can make you allergic to red meat.
True. This one is weird, but true. Some people bitten by ticks develop a sensitivity to red meat that presents as a food allergy, complete with hives, swollen lips and even breathing problems. The allergy is called alpha-gal syndrome for the type of carbohydrate found in mammalian meat like beef, pork, lamb, and venison. Living in an area with lone star ticks puts you at higher risk of developing alpha-gal syndrome; unfortunately, the lone star tick lives across the Southeast, Midwest and Northeast United States.
If you have a suspicious-looking tick bite, find an urgent care center near you by visiting BaptistHealthClinics.com.