With summer just around the corner, families will be spending more time outdoors participating in activities such as hiking, biking, camping and gardening.
While enjoying warmer weather and natural settings, people are reminded to guard themselves — and their pets — against ticks, those small, spider-like bugs that attach themselves onto the skin of people and animals and feed on their blood.
“While it’s a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, we caution people to be extra careful in the spring and summer months when ticks are most active,” said Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Public Health Director Susan Buckley.
Of the many tick species found throughout the world, just a few transmit disease to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bacterium that causes Lyme disease is found in only one type of tick locally: the western blacklegged tick.
“Taking precautions against tick bites is the best way to reduce the risk of contracting Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses,” Buckley said.
The CDC offers the following tips to lessen the likelihood that you will come in contact with the western blacklegged tick over the coming months.
? Stay away from wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter where ticks often lurk. Walk in the center of trails, avoiding brushing up against foliage.
? Repel ticks with DEET or permethrin. Use repellants that contain 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing only. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. Remember to always follow product instructions.
? Reduce the chances of tick bites in your yard by mowing the lawn frequently and raking up leaf litter. Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from yard edges and trees. Place a three-foot wide wood chip or rock barrier between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration.
? Prevent family pets from bringing ticks into the home. Check pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors. If you find a tick on your dog, remove it immediately. Also, talk to your veterinarian about using tick preventives on your pet.
? Bathe or shower within two hours after coming indoors from a potentially tick-infested area to wash off ticks that might be crawling on your body. It’s also important to do a full-body tick check. Tumbling clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour will kill any remaining ticks that you don’t find.
If you find a tick attached to your skin, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not jerk or twist the bug. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.
If you remove a tick and want to know what type it is, the Public Health La¬b — located at 529 I St. in Eureka — offers free tick identification. After removing a tick, place it in a sealed container or ziplock bag with a paper towel moistened with water. It’s best to bring the whole tick into the lab.
If the tick is identified by lab staff as a western blacklegged tick, they can test the tick for Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, for a $37 fee. For more information about Public Health tick testing, call 268-2179.
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