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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Managing Ticks

One potential risk that is good to keep in mind throughout the summer is ticks. After doing a bit of research mainly for when one is camping or gallivanting in the woods, several other points came up that are more preventative and proactive than "remove it as quickly as possible".

Please keep in mind this is not a medical article or intended to replace medical care or advice. If seriously searching "Do I have Lyme disease" brought you here or you believe a tick may have transmitted an illness to you, please promptly seek medical attention.

The main source for most of the research below was the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though there were also a few others that had good tips (see Sources at the bottom of the post). Here is a summary of some of the practical measures that came up for the daily outdoors person or (person who is exposed to outdoors against their will):

Managing them at home:
- minimize cluttered bunches such as piles of fallen leaves, tall grass, garbage and other places where they may hide
- arrange your property so it is less attractive/accessible to wild animals that might be carrying ticks
- keep outdoor furniture away from trees, shrubs, and other tall plants
- use pesticide

Preventing tick bites when gallivanting, adventuring, or otherwise exploring outdoors:
- Cover and seal with clothing. Wear long sleeves and tuck your pant legs into your socks to prevent them from crawing into your clothes.
- Talk in the middle of the trail to avoid touching piles of leaf litter or thickets of plants where there may be ticks
- The CDC specifically recommends using using insect repellent with at least 20% DEET, picaridin*, or IR535 on exposed skin. Other sources mentioned that mosquito repellent is included in that list.
>> 30% DEET can give 4-6 hours of protection.
>> *The toxicity of DEET is yet to be determined, but studies suggest that picaridin is equally effective to DEET and has fewer negative effects.

- Bathe within 2 hours of getting home, check your clothes for hitchhikers, and all over your skin for any rashes. The sooner ticks are found and removed the better, and removing them within 24 hours can make a big difference in preventing disease transmission.

Check your pupper: Your dog or cat is also vulnerable to ticks, so to prevent ticks try to keep them away from dense thickets like fallen leaf piles and regularly check their fur and skin for ticks too, especially after they have been outside.

Signs you may have been bit:
- A rash, which would redden and swell very slowly long after exposure (up to months)
- Cold or flulike symptoms

You may not feel it if you are bit because ticks secrete a painkiller in their saliva to help them remain attached and feeding without being noticed, so perform a careful check.

What to do if you are bit by a tick:
If you are bit, remember these things:
1. Remove it asap
2. Seek medical attention if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease or feeling ill
3. Either dispose of the tick after submerging it in rubbing alcohol/putting it in a sealed bag/flushing it down the toilet, or consider sending it as sample to a lab that tests them. This way they will identify whether or not you have been exposed to an infected tick, and it also helps them map the spread of tick-related diseases.

Removing a tick:
You may choose to remove it with a pair of pointed tweezers, pulling upwards with steady, even force (don't try to rip it out, it can leave the teeth still inside you). Thoroughly clean/disinfect the area and your hands.

A tick will still be attached to you, but even if it seems to be under your skin its body will not be completely embedded inside you. Don't panic if the head is still inside after you remove the body; proceed to disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol.

MYTHS: Cover it with paint, nail polish, Vaseline or touch it with a hot match. Do not do any of these, instead use tweezers to remove it; swift removal is key to preventing transmission of disease, not waiting for it to fall out.

Prepped with these points in mind, happy gallivanting!

Sources:
https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/in_the_yard.html
https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html
https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html
https://www.outsideonline.com/1915061/9-tips-avoiding-and-treating-tick-bites
http://healthcenter.indiana.edu/answers/insect-precautions.shtml
http://www.tickencounter.org/faq/tick_bites

Note: This was published August 31, 2017. It was listed as August 30th for ideal sequence relating to the post also published August 31, "Lunar-ticks for the Eclipse".

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