Q. We are planning a family camping trip, and I am worried about ticks. What can we do to prevent exposure? What should I do if we find a tick?
Ticks are parasites that can carry diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and ehrlichiosis. Anyone who spends time outdoors should be familiar with ticks and tick-borne diseases. The following measures can be taken to protect your family from ticks:
• Use insect repellant that contains DEET.
• Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are more easily seen.
• Tuck pant legs into socks when in heavily wooded areas.
• Check children and pets daily for ticks.
If you find a tick, it is important to remove it carefully as soon as possible by grasping it close to its head or mouth with tweezers. Pull the tick out with a slow and steady motion (do not twist); avoid crushing or squeezing.
If the head of the tick remains embedded, it can be removed using a needle, just as you would remove a splinter. If you are unable to remove all parts of the tick, mark the area with a pen and seek medical attention.
Finally, clean the area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Save the tick in a jar in case symptoms of infection develop over the next two weeks.
Most ticks do not carry diseases, so no medical treatment is necessary for routine tick bites. Signs of medical complications due to a tick bite include the following:
• A rash of any kind.
• Redness, swelling, pain or drainage at the site of the bite.
• Fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, joint pain.
If any of these signs or symptoms develops within the two weeks following a tick bite, seek medical treatment right away. Tick-borne diseases are typically treatable with antibiotics, but it is important to start treatment early in the disease course.