With summer comes another task to add to your busy schedule: picking ticks off your kids, your pets, and yourself. Most bugs are just an annoyance, but some, like ticks, can make you sick. Ticks—in particular, the deer tick—are best known for their ability to carry and transmit the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease. But they can also spread other bacterial and viral diseases, including babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, relapsing fever, and Colorado tick fever, reports the June 2009 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch.
Although most tick bites won’t transmit a disease, some can, and there is no vaccine to protect you from most of these diseases. If you spend time outdoors, it’s almost impossible to avoid ticks completely. But you can take steps to lower your risk of getting bitten or of becoming ill. Here are some measures you can take to avoid infection:
Protect yourself: Avoid wooded, bushy, or grassy areas whenever possible. When venturing into them, wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants. Use an insect repellent that contains DEET.
Check yourself: After you've been out in tick territory, undress and examine your skin, using a mirror for hard-to-see places.
Remove ticks promptly: If you find a tick, use narrow-tipped tweezers to grasp it as close to your skin as possible, and pull upward slowly and steadily. Then wash your skin and hands with soap and warm water. Never crush or squeeze an attached tick.
Harvard Women’s Health Watch notes that if you have been exposed to ticks and you develop flu-like symptoms or a rash, see your clinician—even if the symptoms go away on their own. A tick-borne infection usually causes no lasting harm if it’s recognized and treated early.
Read the full-length article: "Recognizing and avoiding tick-borne illness"