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Ticked off: It’s that time of year

Larry Woody • Updated May 17, 2018 at 8:30 AM

I read a story awhile back about how “rare” it is for someone to contract a serious illness like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick bite.

That may be so, but it’s no consolation if you happen to be that rare case.

Lyne disease causes extreme fatigue and aching joints and lingers for months, and Rocky Mountain Fever can be equally debilitating.

Even if a tick is not carrying diseases, a bite can still become infected and cause serious problems. It shouldn’t be brushed off – no pun intended.

Summertime is tick time, and encounters become more frequent as campers, hikers, picnickers, gardeners and others spend time outdoors. There’s no way to become completely tick-proof, but there are precautions that can be taken to lessen the odds of picking up the irritating little blood-suckers.

Start with a good insect repellent, some of which are specifically intended for ticks. Apply the repellent as directed (some are not intended to be rubbed or sprayed directly onto the skin).

Re-apply the repellents fairly frequently. Hours of perspiring can reduce the repellent’s effectiveness.

Ankles and legs are particularly vulnerable areas as ticks lie on their backs on bushes and weeds, legs in the air, waiting to latch onto passersby. Also, anyone who lies or sits on the ground is vulnerable to ticks.

After walking through bushes or tall grass or working in a garden, make a through tick-check as soon as you get a chance. Along with ankles and legs, the waist-band of pants is a prime tick location.

One species of tick, known as a “seed tick,” is so small that it is barely visible. They generally latch on in clusters, and the itching – usually on feet and ankles – can be maddening. About the only treatment is anti-itch ointments, and they take a day or two to be effective. If you plan to be outdoors for a few days, on a camping trip for example, it’s a good idea to include some of the anti-itch ointment in the first-aid kit.

When removing clothing worn in tick county, put it directly in the wash, not into a clothes hamper where hitch-hikers can escape, track you down, and latch on.

If you find an embedded tick, take care removing it. It’s best to use tweezers, making sure not to break off the tick’s head and leave it embedded in the flesh. That can cause a serious infection even if the tick is not carrying a disease.

Most tick bites heal after a day or two of itching. If the bitten area fails to heal, becomes red and inflamed and starts to spread, seek medical attention.

Similar precautions apply to pets that roam outdoors. While dogs and cats don’t seem vulnerable to tick-borne diseases, the embedded parasites can nevertheless cause irritating and painful problems. A daily tick-check is a good idea or all outdoor pets, especially during the summer months.

For such a tiny pest, a tick can cause big problems.

Larry Woody is The Democrat’s outdoors writer. Email him at [email protected] 

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