It’s officially mid-summer and tick season is in full swing. With increased outdoor activity, and more skin exposure, tick bites become more of a concern through September. The reality is that ticks are present in Westchester County year-round, but there are a number of things we can do to help prevent tick bites and their related illnesses during the summertime. Dr. Peter Acker, Westmed pediatrician, shares some important facts that can help protect you and your family from tick-borne disease.
- Check Yourself – Daily tick checks are very effective, especially after being in wooded area or high grass. Ticks love warm, dark places so the most important places to check are in the hair and hairline, behind ears, the back of the neck, elbows, armpits, waist, groin, behind the knees and between toes. Ticks also have a tendency to grab onto clothing, so a good rule of thumb after a hike is to check your clothes before you get in the car.
- Clothing – Dress appropriately for walks in nature to help deter ticks and keep them from reaching your skin. For example, tuck your pants in to your socks and wear close toed shoes.
- Don’t Panic – I always tell patients that the ticks I worry about are the ticks you never see. Ticks need to be attached for 48-72 hours in order to transmit illnesses such as Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis/Ehrlichiosis, or Babesiosis. Frequent checking and prompt removal of the tick will help minimize the risk for these illnesses.
- Treat Your Pets – If you spend a lot of time outdoors with your dog, or you have an outdoor cat, be sure to treat them for ticks. Remember to check your animals for ticks as well, particularly after a walk in the woods. Pets can also track ticks inside which is something you want to avoid.
- Wear DEET – Applying an insect repellent with DEET can deter ticks from crawling on you in the first place.
- Invest in your Health – Buy a tick removal kit from your local drugstore and keep it on hand. It can help you to remove a tick safely and promptly. If you are nervous about at-home tick removal, you can always visit a local urgent care office to have a doctor or nurse remove it for you.
If you do contract a tick-borne illness, such as Lyme disease, antibiotics are very effective when started early in the course of the disease. If you had a tick bite, and you experience a sudden onset of flu like symptoms or a rash, see your doctor so you can get prompt testing and treatment. Precaution and education are our best weapon for fighting tick-borne disease.