Now that the warmer weather is here, we’re a lot more active outside. And so are pesky bugs. Ticks in particular love warm, humid climates - so Michigan health officials are urging us to protect ourselves when outdoors.
What are we protecting ourselves from?
First of all, not all ticks carry disease, Michigan has over 20 known tick species. But several of them can carry dangerous viruses, parasites and bacteria. We often hear about Lyme disease carried by the black-legged tick, but other illnesses certain ticks can carry include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia and Ehrlichiosis. Now these can be quite serious if not treated – in fact deaths have been reported in Michigan due to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia. But the good news is that these are treatable with antibiotics. And if caught in the early stages, most people make fast and full recoveries.
How do you remove a tick?
It’s important to remain calm when removing a tick. Because you want to remove it slowly and carefully using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. You need to grasp it as close to the skin as you can and pull upward. Once it’s out, don’t toss it. Place it in a bag so you can have it identified. Any black-legged ticks that are alive, can be tested for Lyme disease by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
What can we do to protect ourselves?
Spending time outdoors is great for our health. So here are my prescriptions:
1. Skip the sandals and wear shoes or boots. Tuck your pants into your socks and wear long-sleeved shirts.
2. Use insect repellents containing DEET or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) on clothing, you can also use a permethrin product. But read the label first, and be sure it’s safe before using on children.
3. Ticks love grassy, wooded and brushy areas. So be sure when walking to stick to the center of trails and avoid path edges.
4. Always check for ticks once you’re home. They can attach anywhere and be found in hard to see places like your scalp, groin and armpits. It's best to shower within two hours of coming indoors.