By Monica Thielen, APRN-BC
Have you ever been told that if you find a tick attached to your skin you’re supposed to paint it with nail polish to get rid of it? The truth is, that’s actually not an effective remedy. Read on for this and other tips to treat—and prevent—tick bites.
Summertime is often considered tick season but even though we’re easing into fall, don’t let your guard down: ticks are actually active year-round. Some ticks carry diseases, with effects ranging from mild symptoms to a severe infection requiring hospitalization. The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses include fever/chills, aches and pains, and rash. Early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications. The most common illness is Lyme disease, but ticks also can spread other diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. (Note: these diseases tend to be concentrated in specific parts of the country.)
The good news is that Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska are areas of low tickborne diseases. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ticks in our area. So the best way to protect your family is through the prevention of tick bites.
The CDC recommends the following tips:
- Avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter. When hiking, walk in the center of trails.
- Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours. Parents should apply repellent to children; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends products with up to 30 percent DEET for kids. Always follow product instructions.
- Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents or look for clothing pre-treated with permethrin.
- Treat dogs for ticks. Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and to some tickborne diseases, and may also bring ticks into your home. Tick collars, sprays, shampoos, or monthly medications help protect against ticks.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (within 2 hours is best) to wash off and more easily find crawling ticks before they bite you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon returning from tick-infested areas. Parents should help children check thoroughly for ticks. Remove any ticks right away.
If you do find a tick on your skin, avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not wait for it to detach itself.
Stay tuned for a second post on this topic next week, when I’ll explain how you ARE supposed to remove a tick, along with some other helpful notes about prevention and treatment.
Monica Thielen, APRN-BC, is a nurse practitioner at Shawnee Mission Primary Care-Lenexa. You can find information about her and her clinic online here.