By Victoria Vishniakova
(Pharmacist and member of the WBFN’s Health Interest Group)
Spring and summer are amazing times for outside activities--picnics, hiking, and visiting parks and forests.
At the same time, it is the most likely time to be bitten by ticks. Ticks can transmit several illnesses, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain fever. There are seven different types of ticks in the USA which can infect humans, and four of them are located in the DC area. Tick-borne diseases, particularly Lyme disease, are among the fastest growing infectious disease in the United States.
All ticks have four stages of development: larva, nymph, adults and eggs. Nymph and larval ticks are very small and look like specks of dirt. They are hard to see, are very aggressive and are more active in spring and at the beginning of summer. Adult ticks are more active in the summer and fall. The best way to avoid long-term consequences of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases is to prevent tick bites. Avoid tick-infested areas when possible. When walking, you stay in the center of the trails, avoiding contact with overhanging grass and branches. Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves and pants, and use repellents. When you return home, put your clothes in the dryer set on high heat for at least 30 minutes, have a shower and do a routine tick check on yourself and your children.
If you find a tick attached to your skin you need to remove it as quickly as possible. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull upwards with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick, don’t put oil on the tick. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with alcohol or soap and water. Never crush the tick with your fingers. Place it in a plastic bag to get the tick tested for tick-borne diseases.
Tick-borne diseases can be transmitted in 15-30 minutes (Powassan disease) and 4-6 hours (Rocky Mountain fever). Lyme disease is transmitted during 24-48 hours after the tick attaches your skin. Lyme disease and many tick-borne diseases have similar symptoms. The most common are fever, headache, chills, nausea, joint pain, fatigue, muscle ache and a rash. If you develop some of these symptoms you should see your doctor.
Be safe and enjoy summer time.