By: Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker, physician consultant at Blue Cross Blue Shield of MichiganDr. Gina Lynem-Walker
Michigan’s tick population is reportedly on the rise. While it’s important to spend time outdoors and enjoy everything summer has to offer, it’s also crucial to understand the risk of these insects and how to keep the family safe and healthy.
What are ticks?
Ticks are tiny insects, comparable to the size of a sesame seed, that attach themselves to the skin of humans and animals as they brush against them. They are most prevalent in Michigan between mid-April and September.
How Should I Remove a Tick?
One of the most effective ways to remove a tick is with tweezers. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, pull upward with a steady, even pressure and straight out of the skin. After the tick is safely removed, clean the area with soap and water. Put the tick in a plastic bag and save for the doctor in case signs of infection begin to show.
What Harm Can a Tick Cause?
Ticks can carry Lyme disease, an infectious disease capable of affecting humans and pets. Michigan has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of ticks carrying Lyme disease in the past ten years. Oftentimes, ticks need to be attached to the skin for at least 36 to 48 hours in order to transmit the disease. Other diseases that can result from a tick bite include: ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, tularemia, rocky mountain spotted fever and tick-borne relapsing fever. The risk of infection often depends on what region the tick is located.
What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
Victims of a tick bite may see a rash that looks like a “bull’s eye,” red, circular pattern one to two weeks after being bitten. It also produces an inflammatory reaction to the skin in early stages, in some cases affecting joints, the nervous system, and the heart later on. Other symptoms of Lyme disease include flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes. If you think you have early signs of Lyme disease, see your doctor as soon as possible—thankfully, it can be easily treated with antibiotics if detected early.
How can I Stay Safe from Ticks?
The easiest way you can protect yourself is by avoiding contact with common tick “hiding spots,” including: high grasses, wooded areas, low shrubs, and leaves. It’s also important to make a habit of checking everyone’s exposed skin for ticks after spending time outdoors. Don’t forget to check your hair, ears, under arms, belly button, between your legs and the back of your knees – these are the most common areas to find ticks. Lastly, you can prevent these miniature insects by using bug spray before you go outside. If you go for a walk in the woods, it is recommended to wear long sleeves and pants to shield exposed skin. For further protection, you or your kids can tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from crawling onto your ankles.
Are Pets Affected, Too?
Ticks can latch onto pets as well as humans. Like the rest of the family, it’s important to check a pet after time spent outdoors. Feel the skin for bumps that could potentially be ticks and get them removed before they can enter the home or transfer to other hosts. Some common places to check for ticks on pets include: inside ears, between toes, under tails, around eyelids, and under collars.
Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker is a physician consultant Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan provider. For more health tips and information on member tools, visit www.Mibluesperspectives.com.