Tick and Tickborne Illnesses -

Tick and Tickborne Illnesses

Summer is in full swing and we have many things in progress outdoors.  We are just past the Memorial Day Holiday, Fourth of July and we are currently in the Family Reunion swing.  Many families will gather outdoors and the risk of attracting unwanted hitchhikers are a possibility.  Ticks are so prevalent in the southern states it is nearly impossible to not come in contact with where tick are.  Ticks are found in wooded, brushy areas; in tall grass; and in leaflitter on the ground. When engaging in activities in environments where ticks are likely to be, lower your risk for picking up a tick by using the following strategies published by the American Red Cross First Aid Course:

  • Limit the amount of exposed skin. Wear long-sleeved shirtsand long pants. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pantlegs into your socks or boots.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks onyour clothing.
  • Stay in the middle of trails. Avoid underbrush and tall grass.
  • Conduct a full-body check for ticks after being outdoors.Check the scalp, under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the navel, around the waist, behind the knees and between the legs. If you are outdoors for an extended period of time, check several times throughout the day.
  • Consider using an insect repellent if you will be in a grassy or wooded area for a long period of time or if you know that the tick population in the area is high. Use repellents sparingly. One application will last 4 to 8 hours. Heavier or more frequent applications do not increase effectiveness. DEET is the active ingredient in many insect repellents. The amount of DEET contained in the product can range from less than 10 percent to over 30 percent. The more DEET that a productcontains, the longer it will provide protection. Products with 30 percent DEET are as safe asproducts with 10 percent DEET when used properly.
  • Apply products that contain DEET only once a day, or according to the manufacturer’sinstructions.
  • Do not use DEET on infants younger than 2 months.
  • Do not use a product that combines a DEET-containing insect repellent with sunscreen.Sunscreens wash off and need to be reapplied often. DEET does not wash off with water.Repeating applications may increase absorption of DEET through the skin, possibly leading totoxicity.To apply repellent to your face, first spray it on your hands and then apply it from your hands toyour face. Avoid sensitive areas such as the lips and eyes.Never put repellents on children’s hands. They may put them in their eyes or mouth.Never use repellents on an open wound or irritated skin.

When it comes to Arkansas specifically the Arkansas Department of Health (http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programsServices/infectiousDisease/zoonoticDisease/TickborneDisease/Documents/TickBorneDiseaseBrochures.pdf)  has reported that Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is the most common tick-borne disease in Arkansas. RMSF is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. This bacterium is carried mostly by the American dog tick, Dermacentorvariabilis, but also by the brown dog tick, Rhipicephalussanguineus. Not all ticks are infected. It takes an infected tick four to six hours to spread disease after attaching to the host. Adult ticks look for large hosts such as dogs, but they also feed on humans. Ticks are often found in overgrown lots and along weedy roadsides, paths and hiking trails. Most RMSF cases occur between June and August when tick populations and outdoor activities are highest. Half of all people with RMSF do not remember being bitten by a tick.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Symptoms and Treatment

Symptoms of RMSF generally appear suddenly, about one week after an infected tick bite. However, there may be symptoms any time between 2 and 14 days after a bite. Symptoms include: • High fever • Headache • Muscle pain • Non-itchy, pink rash usually starting on the wrists, forearms and ankles It is important to get medical care as soon as possible if you think you have RMSF. Blood tests are required to diagnose RMSF, but treatment should begin as soon as symptoms and/or recent tick exposure suggest RMSF.

I hope you will find the information regarding ticks and the most common tick-borne illness useful and remember some safety tips when you are outside in the elements.  Stay away from the tall grass, keep covered and wear some bug spray when you are in wooded areas.  Take precautions, have a healthy summer.  Enjoy and be careful out there.