The Doctor Is In: Ways to Protect Yourself from Ticks and Mosquitoes
As hot summer days turn into warm summer evenings, many people enjoy sitting outside. But, it takes just a few minutes before you hear a high-pitched buzz and feel a burning itch. You’ve been found by mosquitoes.
But mosquitoes are just one summertime pest. Ticks are another.
Each year the risk of getting bacterial or viral infections from tick and mosquito bites seems to increase. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid getting bit.
Here are ten ways you can protect yourself.
· Wear pants and long sleeves to minimize areas of exposed skin.
· Wear light-colored clothing to see crawling ticks easier. Light colors, which do not absorb as much heat, may also make you less attractive to mosquitoes.
· Use Picaridin or a 30 percent DEET repellent. Spray your clothes, boots and socks. Avoid spraying your face and the palms of your hands. If you’re hiking or camping, don’t forget to spray your backpack and your tent.
· Treat your clothes with permethrin. This repellent is effective for both mosquitoes and ticks. When applied correctly, permethrin may last through more than five washings. Treat your clothes and let them dry before wearing. Use caution during treatment. When liquid or wet, permethrin can be toxic to small animals.
· When you’re outside, avoid areas with long grass. Stay on trails if possible.
· After being outside, shower and carefully check your body for ticks. Blacklegged ticks are very small and easy to miss.
· Make yourself less attractive to mosquitoes. Don’t use sweet-smelling soaps or sprays. Mosquitoes are attracted by sweet scents, especially banana.
· Stay inside during the evening hours when mosquitoes are most active.
· Burn a mosquito-repellant torch or candle when you’re outside.
· Remove all standing water in your yard that may be home to mosquito larvae.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Health, Division of Health Services, mosquitoes in the Midwest can transmit arboviral infections such as the West Nile Virus and various strains of Encephalitis. They can also infect animals with equine encephalitis and canine heartworm.
Black-legged or deer ticks, on the other hand, can harbor the Powassan virus along with disease-causing bacteria such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis.
In rare cases, Wisconsin wood or dog ticks can cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever and typhus, tularemia and tick paralysis.
In Wisconsin, Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness.
The symptoms of Lyme disease can appear in just three days, or they may take as long as 30 days after a tick bite to develop.
A rash, which often appears one week after a tick bite, occurs in 70 percent of patients. It is the most recognizable sign of Lyme disease. As the area of the rash gets larger, it may begin to resemble a bull’s eye.
In addition to the rash, a person who is suffering from Lyme disease may experience other symptoms in the first month including:
· Muscle aches
· Joint pain
· Swollen lymph nodes
It’s important to treat Lyme disease as soon as possible after the bite. Left untreated symptoms become more serious as the bacteria starts to affect the nervous system. It can become difficult to treat.”
At later stages, Lyme disease can cause headaches, arthritis-like pain, stiff neck, loss of muscle tone, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, shooting pain, numbness and short-term memory problems.
A simple blood test can detect Lyme disease.
If you spend time outside and experience achy muscles and sore joints, ask your primary care clinician for a Lyme disease blood test.
Tiffany King, DNP, FNP-C, APNP is a board-certified family nurse practitioner at Ascension Medical Group at Westwood, located at 1901 Westwood Center Boulevard in Wausau. For more information visit ministryhealth.org or call 715.355.9775.