Be aware of ticks; Check yourself and take steps to avoid

by Sheryl Darling Mooney, RN, Veterans Memorial
Hospital Community and Home Care

It’s great to get out and enjoy the outdoors here in Allamakee and Clayton counties, but remember to be vigilant about checking yourself and others with you for ticks. Examine your skin as best you can and use a hand-held mirror, if available. Fine-toothed combs can also be used in helping to check your scalp. “I’d Like to Check You for Ticks” isn’t just the catchy title to a country song, but a good idea to have someone else check the areas you can’t easily see.

There are ways to help decrease the likelihood of a tick bite or attachment:

- Treat dogs and cats for ticks
- Wear insect repellant containing the ingredient DEET (not recommended for children under two months of age)
- Wear permethrin treated clothing
- Check yourself for ticks after being outdoors, especially after being out in the woods
- Shower soon after coming indoors.

If you find a tick, don’t panic! To remove the tick, use a tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Try to pull straight up using steady pressure to avoid causing the tick’s mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with a clean tweezers.

After removing the tick, thoroughly wash your hands, bite area, and tweezers with soap and water. A tool called a “tick key” can be found at some local sporting goods stores. This small flat device has a hole in the middle that you place over the tick that helps you remove the tick using steady pressure.

Depending on the weather, ticks can be found as early as March and as late as November. See a medical provider, even if you did not find a tick on you, if you develop a rash (especially one that looks like a target or “bulls eye”), fever, muscle aches, or headache, as these can be symptoms of a tick-borne illness. Be cautious but don’t let your fear of ticks keep you from enjoying this beautiful area we live in.

For more information, call the Veterans Memorial Hospital Community and Home Care Department at 563-568-5660.
 

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