Fite the bite: When outdoors, be aware of ticks, mosquitoes
Summer comes with warmer weather, but it is important to remember protection against warm-weather parasites such as mosquitoes and ticks.
Six of the 63 species of mosquitoes found locally are known to transmit diseases. These human illnesses spread by mosquitoes include West Nile Virus, La Crosse Encephalitis, and St. Louis Encephalitis.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, which includes puddles, stagnant ditches and containers such as old tires, buckets, cans and neglected swimming pools. These pools of water provide an outdoor resting place for mosquitoes most commonly associated with West Nile Virus. Remove standing water and change water in bird baths every few days to prevent mosquito breeding.
It is important to apply mosquito repellent when participating in any outdoor activity – especially when fishing, camping or boating at night. Thirty percent DEET repellents are safe for those two months old and older. When going outdoors, wear light-colored clothing and long pants tucked into socks.
Children react more to mosquito bites and can develop local swollen glands, but this is not serious. Symptoms of mosquito bites are itching, and there is no treatment for them except possibly antihistamines and cool compresses.
Ticks spread many diseases and are active from early spring until late fall. There are three species of ticks locally that cause disease in humans, and the most common one, the deer tick or “black-legged tick,” carries three diseases. The best known is Lyme disease.
Tick-borne diseases can be transmitted only by the bite of an infected tick, but the diseases cannot be spread person-to-person. Ticks normally become infected by eating blood from an infected animal. Use caution when removing ticks from pets and be sure to check for ticks after spending time outdoors. Showering within two hours of exposure will prevent tick attachment. It likely takes more than 24 hours of attachment to transmit Lyme disease.
Tick bites may have no symptoms. The characteristic “bull’s-eye” rash is characteristic of Lyme disease but does not occur in all cases. Contact a physician if a “bull’s-eye” rash is visible or if the tick could have been embedded for more than 24 hours. A prescription for doxycycline can prevent the development of Lyme disease in these cases.
Follow these tips to help avoid mosquito bites:
Make sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens.
Repair or replace all torn screens.
Remove all discarded tires.
Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
Make sure roof gutters drain properly. Clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
Clean and chlorinate swimming pools and hot tubs. If not in use, keep empty and covered.
Drain water from pool covers.
Change the water in bird baths at least once a week.
Turn over plastic wading pools, wheelbarrows and other similar items when not in use.
Clean ditches of obstructions so they drain properly.
Eliminate any standing water.
Check trees for cavities that hold water and fill them with soil, gravel, or sand.
Remind or help neighbors to eliminate breeding sites on their properties.
Use insect repellent with DEET and follow the label directions.
The risk of exposure to ticks and disease can be reduced by using these precautions:
Avoid tick-infested areas such as wooded or weedy areas.
If exposure is unavoidable, tuck pants into sock tops or boots.
Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to find crawling ticks.
Use repellents and follow label instructions carefully.
Check children for ticks frequently.
Use caution when handling ticks and dispose of properly.
Dogs can become infected with tick-borne diseases, and owners are reminded of the following tips:
Dogs should be kept in well-mowed areas during tick season from April to September.
Treatments are available to control ticks on dogs. Always follow label instructions.
Inspect dogs for ticks every day. Ticks should be handled with caution and disposed of safely.
Keep yard and outdoor play areas well mowed to discourage tick infestation.
Tips for tick removal include:
If a tick is attached, remove it as soon as possible; this reduces the risk of infection.
Shield fingers with a paper towel or use tweezers. Grasp the tick close to the skin. With steady pressure, pull the tick straight up and out.
Do not twist or jerk the tick. This may cause the mouth parts to be left in the skin.
Do not crush or puncture the tick.
Do not use a flame or cigarette to remove a tick. This may cause the tick to burst and increase disease risk.
After removing a tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands with soap and water.