After an especially long winter, we turn our thoughts to sun, warmer temperatures and outdoor activities. But beyond just lathering up with plenty of sunscreen before heading out, there are actually a few more things we should be putting on: bug repellent, long sleeves and long pants.
It’s tick season.
“It’s a common misconception that ticks only pose a risk during the summer months,” said Dena Nader, M.D., regional medical director of MedExpress.
“It’s true that ticks are more common during the warmer spring and summer seasons, but it’s important for people to know that ‘tick season,’ especially in eastern states, is actually year-round. Blacklegged ticks that transmit Lyme disease can remain active as long as the temperatures outside is above freezing (32 degrees). That means that trails, yards and parks aren’t necessarily safe from ticks, even in colder weather.”
The Centers for Disease Control provided this photo of a blacklegged tick, which are widely distributed across the eastern United States and can transmit Lyme disease.
Nader recommends avoiding direct contact with ticks by staying away from wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf piles, and walking in the center of trails. Use repellent on exposed skin and find and remove ticks from the body as soon as possible after coming indoors. Also, wear long sleeves and long pants when hiking or walking along trails.
According to Nader, predicting the number of Lyme disease or other tick-borne infections, and how an upcoming season will compare to previous years is difficult.
“This is because ticks that spread disease to people can have up to two-to-three-year life cycles, and many factors can affect their numbers, including temperature, rainfall, humidity, and the amount of available hosts for the ticks to feed on, such as mice, deer and other animals,” she explained.
She added that though this past winter was a seemingly long one, it was a mild one, and ticks were able to surface and flourish much earlier than normal.
Nader said that from 2016 to 2017, MedExpress centers across their 19 state locations saw an 18-percent increase in patient visits related to Lyme disease, with locations in Pennsylvania experiencing the second-highest percentage of Lyme disease visits in nearly 250 centers. She also noted that in May 2018, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a warning about insect-borne illnesses being on the rise, including ticks. The warning stated that disease cases from mosquitoes, ticks and flea bites more than tripled in the United States from 2004 to 2016.
“Tick bites are most commonly found in the arms, in and around the ears, on the back of the knees, between the legs and around the waist,” Nader said. “It is important to do a full-body check of these areas each and every time you or your family come inside from spending time outdoors.”
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks. A deer tick must bite you and stay attached to your skin to transmit the bacteria, which will eventually end up in your bloodstream. Only a small portion of these ticks carry Lyme disease, however, and infection is unlikely if the tick is attached for less than 36 hours. If left untreated, though, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.
“Untreated Lyme disease can produce a wide range of symptoms, depending on the stage of infection,” Nader said. “These include fever, rash, facial paralysis and arthritis. Other hallmark signs of Lyme disease include rash, flu-like symptoms, joint pain or neurological problems.”
If you discover that you have a tick bite or that one of your children do, Nader recommends visiting a healthcare professional so that ticks can be removed properly and completely.
“This matters because a tick needs to be attached for 24 to 48 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease,” she said.
Improper removal also can push bacteria within the insect into the skin, which can lead to an infection.
Courtesy of the Observer-Reporter. Original article can be read here.