KENILWORTH, N.J., June 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- As outdoor activity increases during the summertime, the risk of encountering ticks and contracting a tick-borne illness also rises. Yet ticks are difficult to spot and tick-transmitted diseases do not always manifest in obvious or immediate symptoms, making it difficult to prevent or identify potential illness.
Depending on the region, ticks can spread a number of diseases from Rocky Mountain spotted fever and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) to the most notable and serious condition spread by ticks – Lyme disease. Despite an increase in reported cases of Lyme over the past decade, confusion around the disease persists, according to infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush.
To provide clarity on the proper way to handle an encounter with a tick, Dr. Bush has answered five common questions on MerckManuals.com:
1. How should I remove the tick?
To remove the tick, grasp it with tweezers as close to the head as possible and pull straight out to remove the entire creature, especially the head. Once the tick has been removed, apply a small amount of antiseptic to the area and watch for additional swelling, discoloration or rash, particularly a round, reddened area around the site of the bite.
2. Should I see a doctor?
Visit a hospital or doctor's office right away if you're unable to remove the entire tick, or if you develop a rash or other symptoms in the days after you've found a tick.
If you remove it yourself, you can keep it in a plastic bag in the freezer. Should you decide to visit a doctor within the next 72 hours, he or she will look at the tick to determine what you may have been exposed to. Depending on your geographic location and other factors, your doctor may prescribe a single dose of a common antibiotic.
3. Will I get Lyme disease?
It depends. Even in Lyme-heavy areas, not all ticks carry the causative bacteria. And typically, people contract Lyme disease only if an infected tick remains attached to them for at least a day and a half – that's why it's so important to remove the tick as quickly as possible.
Watch closely for symptoms including the signature "bull's eye" rash as well as fatigue, chills, fever, headaches, stiff neck, muscle aches, and painful and swollen joints.
4. What if there's no rash?
Usually a large, raised red spot will develop at the site of the bite and will grow larger with time, forming a bull's eye and lasting for three to four weeks. However, not everyone infected with Lyme disease contracts the rash. About 25 percent of people never develop – or notice – the bull's eye rash. See your doctor if you develop other symptoms within a month of a tick bite.
5. How can I keep it from happening again?
Your first line of defense against tick bites is to avoid areas where ticks are common, such as heavily wooded or grassy humid environments. If you're in these areas, stay on clear-cut trails, avoid walking through tall grasses, and wear long, light-colored clothing with pants tucked into socks. Keep long hair tied or wear a hat, and use an insect repellant that contains DEET.
After you leave an area with ticks, make sure you do a thorough tick check when you get home. Pay particular attention to warm, dark moist parts of the body – behind the ears, hair, underarms, behind the knees and groin.
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