Summer is just around the corner, and as temperatures rise, so does our exposure to that nastiest of bugs – the tick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your chances of getting a tick bite and being infected with a disease like Lyme or Powassan are higher this season than they’ve been in years past. Why? The number of ticks is on the rise, and these pesky insects are being seen in areas where they previously haven’t been found.
Here are two science-proven ways to safeguard yourself against tick bites and potential resulting diseases.
1. How to Look and Where to Look – Advice coming straight from the CDC suggests you shower or bathe soon after returning from any tick-prone area. By doing so, you may catch any ticks that have hitched a ride on you – hopefully before they bite. Another good practice is to give yourself a full-body tick check after you get home from time outdoors. Try using a full-length mirror to examine your body for insects. If a shower or body check isn’t possible, be sure to at least check the most likely hiding places: ticks gravitate to dark, moist places, like armpits, behind the ears, at the base of the skull, and around the groin area.
When checking for ticks, time is of the essence. The Powassan virus can be spread in a matter of hours. Other pathogens, like the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, can take longer, up to 72 hours. But the faster you find and get rid of a tick, the safer you’ll be. Which brings us to our next point.
2. How to Best Remove a Tick – Once again, the CDC is here to help. Following their simple protocol for removing ticks will keep you in good shape this summer. Start by using fine-tipped tweezers. Grab the tick as close to your skin as possible, get a firm grasp, and pull upward. Be careful not to twist or snatch to hard, as the tick’s body could break away, leaving the mouth in your skin. If the tick does break apart, try removing the mouth with the tweezers. If they’re lodged in too deeply, just clean the area and let it heal.
After you’ve removed the tick, don’t handle it with your hands – pathogens called spirochetes can through even the smallest breaks in your skin. Get rid of the tick by submerging in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet. Then be sure to clean the bite area and your hands, with iodine, rubbing alcohol, or plain old soap and water. Keep an eye on the bite for a few weeks to make sure no rash develops. If your skin breaks out, make an appointment with your doctor to get tested for tick-borne diseases.
With these two simple steps at preventing and dealing with tick bites, you’ll be in good shape this summer. Stay away from alternative strategies, like using heat, fancy tools, and suffocation to deal with these pests; these approaches have been debunked and aren’t favored by the CDC.