Medical Office seeing an uptick in ticks

You can protect yourself from ticks by taking a few simple precautions. Photo courtesy of Fermilab Visual Media Services.

The warmer months encourage people to venture into natural areas, which can increase insect encounters. Because of that, since late April, people have come into the Fermilab Medical Office with tick bites.

Of course people don’t enjoy being an insect meal, but what really is worrisome is the fact that an undesirable payload can reside in the tick’s tummy. Locally the disease we fear the most in tick bites is Lyme disease. This can manifest as arthritis, heart conduction problems or nerve inflammation. Your chance of getting infected with Lyme disease increases if:

  • You are in an area with infected ticks.
  • You get bitten by a deer or black legged tick, which transmits the disease to humans.
  • The tick goes undiscovered and happily feeds for an extended period of time.

You can protect yourself from ticks by doing the following:

  • Wear light-colored clothing to better spot a hitchhiking tick.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Stay in the center of trails so that you reduce your chances of brushing against vegetation.
  • Consider using an insect repellent containing up to 30 percent DEET. Permethin-based insect-repellent products can be applied to clothing, but the substance, which has potential for causing skin rashes, needs to be dry before wearing the clothes.
  • Inspect yourself for ticks after venturing outdoors.

If you do get bit by a tick, remove it as soon as possible by grabbing it as close to the skin as you can with tweezers and pulling the tick out in a straight direction. Do not burn the tick or try to smother it.

Tick mouth parts left in the skin can cause irritation, but do not put you at risk for disease as the body does. Clean the area with soap and water or first-aid antiseptic. The majority of serious health outcomes are linked to a red ring rash that spreads outward from the bite site in as soon as three days.

The Fermi Medical Office will assist with the identification and removal of ticks.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has a good guide to tick identification and Lyme disease.

— Dr. Brian Svazas