Sum­mer­time tick bites: When is it time for the doc­tor?

Record Observer - - Senior Satellite - By DR. JEFF DEN­TON

We’ve seen a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in tick bites in our of­fice, and it looks like it might be one of the worst sum­mers on record due to an in­crease in the tick pop­u­la­tion. Why, you might ask? Our mild win­ter in­creased ticks’ abil­ity to sur vive and re­pro­duce. Be­cause of this, we started off the spring with the largest tick pop­u­la­tion in re­cent years.

Many peo­ple in our area as­so­ci­ate ticks with Lyme disease, a bac­te­rial disease. Ticks, how­ever, also carry vi­ral ill­nesses like Powas­san and par­a­sitic dis­eases like babesio­sis.

So what should you do to pro­tect your­self and your fam­ily?

The best pre­ven­tion is avoid­ing ticks and be­ing smart out­doors.

Avoid places with thick veg­e­ta­tion and high grass.

Walk in the cen­ter of trails when hik­ing.

Use an in­sect and tick re­pel­lent that con­tains 20 per­cent or more DEET, pi­caridin or IR3535 on ex­posed skin. This should pro­vide pro­tec­tion that lasts sev­eral hours.

Treat cloth­ing and gear us­ing prod­ucts that con­tain per­me­thrin, or wear cloth­ing pre-treated with per­me­thrin. Per­me­thrin won’t hurt hu­mans or dogs, but don’t al­low cats near per­me­thrin-treated cloth­ing un­til it has fully dried. Per­me­thrin is harm­ful to bees, fish and aquatic in­sects, so don’t spray your cloth­ing near flow­ers or wa­ter sources.

If you find a tick, there are lots of opin­ions on how to han­dle it. My rec­om­men­da­tion is to fol­low the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion’s guid­ance:

Use fine-tipped tweez­ers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s sur­face as pos­si­ble.

Pull up­ward with steady, even pres­sure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and re­main in the skin. If this hap­pens, re­move the mouth­parts with tweez­ers. If you are un­able to re­move the mouth eas­ily with clean tweez­ers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

Af­ter re­mov­ing the tick, thor­oughly clean the bite area and your hands with rub­bing al­co­hol, an io­dine scrub, or soap and wa­ter.

Dis­pose of a live tick by sub­mers­ing it in al­co­hol, plac­ing it in a sealed bag/con­tainer, wrap­ping it tightly in tape, or flush­ing it down the toi­let. Never crush a tick with your fin­gers.

When to call the doc­tor Tick-borne dis­eases can vary from mild symp­toms treat­able at home to in­fec­tions re­quir­ing med­i­cal care. Early di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment of the in­fec­tion de­creases the risk of se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions.

If you are bit by a tick, call your health care provider to de­ter­mine the ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment if you de­velop:

Fever/chills. With all tick-borne dis­eases, you may ex­pe­ri­ence fever at vary­ing de­grees and time of on­set.

Aches and pains. Tick-borne disease symp­toms in­clude headache, fa­tigue and mus­cle aches. You may also ex­pe­ri­ence joint pain with L yme disease. The sever­ity and how long it takes for these symp­toms to de­velop can de­pend on the disease.

Rash. Depend­ing on the disease car­ried by the tick, a va­ri­ety of rashes may form.

Jef­frey Den­ton, MD, is a pri­mary care doc­tor with AAMG River Fam­ily Physi­cians in Eas­ton. You can reach him by call­ing 410-820-7270.

DR. JEFF DEN­TON

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