But there’s danger lurking out there in the form of tiny, disease-carrying ticks. And this year, these blood-sucking critters are enjoying a population boon. That means we need to take even more precautions to prevent being bitten.
Lyme disease is the most common hazard that comes from a tick encounter. Because its symptoms (body aches, fatigue, chills, rash) mimic so many other ailments, Lyme disease is often difficult to diagnose. But if left untreated, or treated too late, the disease can have long-lasting effects on nearly any part or system of the body.
Because they spend less time outdoors, some older people may be at a lower risk of being bitten. But remember that people and animals can bring the ticks indoors, and a bite can be more serious for someone with a compromised immune system.
To keep you and your loved ones safe, the Centers for Disease Control recommends:
- When walking, stick to the center of trails and avoid areas with tall bushes or vegetation.
- When outdoors, use insect repellant with at least 20 percent DEET.
- Products that contain permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear. Treated items can stay protected through several washings.
- After spending time outdoors, bathe or shower as soon as possible to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check daily using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, the risk of contracting Lyme disease is reduced.
- Protect pets with tick repellant, and always check them for ticks and bites when they return from outside.
- Wash clothes in hot water and tumble dry on high heat to kill ticks.
- If you find a tick, remove it immediately using fine-pointed tweezers.
- Watch the area of the bite for a round, red rash. If this or other symptoms occur, see a doctor.
If you suspect you or a loved one might have Lyme disease, see a doctor right away. Most people can be treated with antibiotics, and the sooner you start, the better.
Ticks are scary, but don’t live in fear. The fact is, most mosquito bites and tick bites cause little more than a bit of irritation. But by reducing your chances of being bitten, you further reduce your chances of getting sick from a bite.