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Take Precautions to Avoid Tick Bites This Summer

Tiny Bugs Can Transmit Nasty Viruses

There’s a good chance that if you have walked through tall grass or through the woods this summer you have already or will find a tick on your clothes, or even worse, your skin.


The thought of those creepy little bugs on you are enough to make anyone shudder. Ticks can spread a variety of illnesses to both people and pets. And some of those illnesses can be quite serious.

How to Keep Them Off You

“Obviously, the best way to avoid ticks is to stay away from them, but that means you have to stay out of tall grass, away from bushes and the woods,” said Dr. Danielle Y. Epanchin, with Atrium Health Floyd Primary Care Family Medicine in Rockmart. “For most of us, that is not practical advice. So, there are few things you can do to safeguard yourself.”

Try using bug spray or lotion, and make sure it contains DEET, which normally provides protection for several hours. If you use a spray variety, you should also spray your clothing, including a cap or hat if you are wearing one. Ticks like hiding out in hair. There are also some repellents that contain permethrin, which can also kill ticks, but can only be sprayed on clothing and should not be applied to the skin.

“Even if you use a repellent, you should exercise caution and check yourself after you have spent considerable time outside,” Dr. Epanchin said. “The more time a tick spends on you, the more likely it is to bite you and cause an illness. Check your hair, underarms and groin for an unwelcomed hitchhiker.”

While shorts are often the clothing of choice in the summertime, you should probably try wearing long pants if you plan on spending some time outside in the woods. It is also recommended that you tuck your shirt in and tuck your pant legs into your socks if possible. Ticks can easily crawl under loose clothing, and you don’t want that to happen.

If You Do Find a Tick on You

If they are not attached, just brush them off and see if you can find a bite mark. Tick bites can be hard to spot. Sometimes the area may just be a little red.

“If the tick is embedded in your skin, take care to remove it correctly,” said Dr. Epanchin. “You can grab it with some tissue, tweezers or even a nail clipper. Try to grab it as close as possible to where it is attached. If you don’t remove the mouth, which might already be under the skin, the area can become infected. Use a disinfectant to clean the site immediately after you remove the tick and make sure you wash your hands.”

 Tick-Related Illnesses

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most common tick-borne disease in our region. The illness is caused by a bacteria-like organism and it can be fatal. Children under the age of 15 are extremely susceptible. Symptoms often start with chills, headache and a fever, and sometimes a rash appears a few days later. That rash often reveals itself in small, pinkish spots, which is why it is sometimes confused with measles.

The illness can be treated with antibiotics. Make sure you see your primary care physician if you suspect you have been bitten by a tick.

Lyme Disease is also a bacterial infection that sometimes includes a ringlike rash where the tick bite occurred. Flu-like symptoms – headache, fever and joint pain – are common. If you experience any of these after a tick bite, see your primary care physician. The disease can be confirmed through a blood test.

If caught early, Lyme Disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics. If it is not caught early, some patients can develop cardiovascular and neurological complications.

A relatively new tick-related illness is the Heartland virus. The virus may present itself with flu-like symptoms, including fever, headaches, nausea and general weakness.

Dogs and cats can be treated to prevent ticks. Make sure you check with your vet for an approved treatment.

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