As summer begins, everyone is eager to get outside to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine. When enjoying various outdoor activities, it’s important to remember that we share that space with many different animals and insects, including ticks. Ticks can infect humans with bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause serious illness. Wisconsinites are exposed to the American Dog Tick (Wood Tick), Blacklegged Tick (Deer Tick) and the Brown Dog Tick which can cause illnesses such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Although it is very difficult to avoid ticks altogether if a person enjoys being outside, there are many things an individual can do to protect themselves from illness.
First, know where to expect ticks. Ticks usually live in warm and humid areas that are wooded or grassy. Before going into areas that may contain ticks, use repellant that contains twenty percent or more DEET. DEET can provide several hours of protection from ticks and should always be used following the product instructions. Also, wear light colored clothing, long sleeves and pants that can be tucked in. Long hair should be covered with a hat or tied up when ticks are expected to be present. After coming inside, the first thing an individual should do is check their clothes for ticks. As an extra precaution, one may put their clothes in the dryer for one hour on high heat to effectively kill any ticks that were missed. Next, take a shower and check the body for ticks. Taking a shower can wash off unattached ticks and reduce the chance of a person getting Lyme disease. After the shower, make sure to check the entire body for ticks. Use a mirror if necessary and don’t forget to check between the legs, under the arms, in the hair and around the ears.
If an attached tick is found, grab the tick with a fine-pointed tweezers as close to the skin as possible without squeezing the tick’s body, and pull it straight out. Never squeeze the tick’s body, try to burn it or cover it was Vaseline. If the tick can’t be removed or a rash/fever develop, seek assistance from a health care provider immediately. By following these simple measures, an individual can greatly reduce their chances of getting a tick-borne illness.