A Healthier Tomorrow – Don’t get sick from a tick!
Imagine a Healthier Tomorrow
By Alison H. Page
Serious illness from tick bites is on the rise in our country, and in Wisconsin and Minnesota, along with states in the northeast and mid-Atlantic area, the situation is reaching epidemic proportions. In 2018, Wisconsin had 3,105 estimated cases of Lyme disease. The average number of reported cases has more than doubled over the past 10 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the total number of cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. is about 10 times higher than what is reported through surveillance. Wisconsin is one of the states reporting the highest number of cases. Our region of Wisconsin has a high incidence of disease from tick bites.
There are many diseases that are spread by ticks in Wisconsin. Anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehlichiosis, Lyme disease, Pawassan virus infection, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are among the diseases that can be spread by ticks. Most tick-borne diseases in Wisconsin are spread by the black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick). Every year between 50 and 100 people in St. Croix County will contract some type of disease from a tick bite. Preventing tick bites is the key to reducing your risk of acquiring a tick-borne disease.
Here are some things you can do to prevent getting sick from a tick:
Before You Go Outdoors
Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings.
Avoid Contact with Ticks
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
Dress to keep ticks at bay.
- Wear long pants and tuck your pants in to your socks so ticks cannot easily crawl up under your clothing.
- Wear clothing that makes spotting ticks easier. There is a lot of discussion, and little research, about whether ticks are more attracted to lighter or darker colored clothing. Either way, wearing clothes that are solid in color will help you get the tiny creatures before they get you.
Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Information on the EPA’s website can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions.
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
- Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
Many people prefer to use more natural, organic approaches to repelling ticks. In order to provide other options, scientists have been developing all-natural chemical compounds made from plants that can repel or kill ticks. Scientists have also studied the use of fungi to kill ticks. Many natural products that come from plants or fungi and repel or kill ticks are described on the EPA website at https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/natural-repellents.html.
After You Come Indoors
Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. A sticky lint roller can be used to assist with the process. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around the hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.
Watch for symptoms. Be alert for a fever or rash. Even if you don’t remember being bitten by a tick, a fever or rash may be the first sign of Lyme disease. Symptoms of tick-borne diseases may include fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, headache and rash (not in all tick-borne diseases). Contact your health care provider right away if you have any of these symptoms.
The Wisconsin Division of Public Health has published a chart showing symptoms of all the common tick-borne illnesses in our area: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/tickborne/tickborne-diseases-chart.pdf
So, this summer, get out and enjoy our beautiful state – but, don’t get sick from a tick!