Another warm winter means an early tick season again! This time of year, black legged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, are an unwanted guest. Just like last year, this year in the northeast and Connecticut, we are going to be seeing a high population of ticks, and many of them will be deer ticks. Unfortunately, at AFC Urgent Care West Hartford, we get asked all too often what steps to take if bitten by a deer tick.
Did you know?
Lyme Disease is named for a close by town, Lyme, Connecticut, where, in 1975, an unusually high rate of adolescent arthritis was being reported. Three years later, in 1978, researchers discovered that the disease that was causing adolescent arthritis was actually transmitted by the deer tick, hence the name Lyme Disease.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferiand and is spread to humans by ticks. Ticks (a parasite) survive by finding a host (another animal) to feed on its blood. While not all ticks carry Lyme Disease, in New England the black-legged tick, more commonly known as the deer tick, can transmit the bacterial infection to other animals including humans.
How to avoid being bitten by a deer tick:
First of all, avoid being bitten by a deer tick, or any tick for that matter.
- Use an insect repellent containing the ingredient Deet. For more info on children’s use of Deet see the CDC’s Insect repellent Use and Safety. There are alternatives.
You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs, as blacklegged ticks live primarily in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas.
- To avoid ticks, walk in the center of trails and avoid tall vegetation. Wear socks and pants when at all possible.
- Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard.
Use a mirror to view all parts of your body. Take special care to check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- Behind the ears
- In the scalp
- Inside the belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around all body hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
Check your clothing and pets for ticks because ticks may be carried into the house on clothing and pets. Both should be examined carefully, and any ticks that are found should be removed. Placing clothes into a dryer on high heat effectively kills ticks.
Is it a Deer Tick? Size Matters:
This chart shows actual sizes for a deer tick, Lone Star Tick and Dog Tick at differing stages of maturation.
What steps to take if bitten by a deer tick:
If you or a family member is bitten by a tick that you suspect to be a deer tick, the best thing to do is to go to a medical provider who is knowledgeable and experienced in proper removal techniques, as it can often be difficult to know if the entire tick has been removed. Leaving any piece of a leg can lead to infection. The safest thing to do would be to head into your doctors office or an urgent care center to be thoroughly examined and treated, within 24-48 hours.
If you feel strongly about removing the tick yourself, take these steps:
To remove a tick:
- Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion.
- Wash the area with a disinfectant.
- When trying to remove the tick:
- DO NOT touch the tick with your bare hands.
- DO NOT squeeze the body of the tick as this may increase your risk of infection.
- DO NOT put alcohol, nail polish remover or Vaseline on the tick.
- DO NOT put a hot match or cigarette on the tick in an effort to make it “back out.”
- DO NOT use your fingers to remove the tick.
The “Do Nots” are important and only increase the likelihood the tick will transmit Lyme disease Applying alcohol, nail polish remover, or a hot match can irritate a tick and cause it to regurgitate its gut contents into your skin. The “guts” of a tick can contain the Lyme disease-causing bacterium.
How do you know if you’re at risk for Lyme Disease?
The surest way to know if you’re at risk is to be tested.
There are definite symptoms of lyme such as fatigue, joint aches and pains, a target shaped rash and low-grade fevers or chills that can incubate for a while, but if and when a bulls-eye rash appears near or around the site of the tick bite, that is a sure sign. It’s vital to get to a doctor during the “incubation” time of 24-48 hours. The longer you wait to get tested or treated the higher the risk is for contracting Lyme Disease.