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DR. BRIDGET GIBSON: Tick bites: Prevention and treatment (column)

The weather is beckoning us outside as fall looms just around the corner. 

While enjoying the beauty of east central Alabama, it’s important to remember outdoor activities can bring us in close contact with ticks that live in grassy, wooded and leaf-littered areas. Ticks range in size from a pinhead to an apple seed. They may bite and stay attached, transferring bacteria to humans.

Prevention

Protect your yard. Mow grass regularly and clear away brush and piles of leaves. Stack wood in a sunny, dry area.

Before you go outside, apply a repellent. Avoid areas of tall grass; walk in the center of trails. If camping or hiking, treat gear with products designed to repel ticks. Wear light-colored pants and long sleeves.

After the outdoors, shower within two hours to wash off unattached ticks and check your body – especially the scalp, underarms, ears, belly button, behind the knees, between the legs and at the waistband. Wash clothes immediately.

Treatment

If you find a tick, don’t panic! 

Use tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin, pulling upward with steady, even pressure without twisting or jerking. Clean the area with soap and water. Removal within 24 hours reduces the risk or tick-borne infection. A small, red bump may appear and is normal; it should go away within a few days.

If you develop any of the below, contact your medical provider. It should be noted that some tick-borne bacteria can cause problems months or even years after the bite. It is always better to err on the side of caution and reach out to your medical provider with any concerns.

  • Suspect a tick was attached for 36 hours or more;

  • Body/muscle aches;

  • Fever;

  • Headaches;

  • Fatigue/tiredness;

  • Joint pain;

  • Stiff neck;

  • Paralysis or weakness of the face; or

  • Rash that spreads, may resemble a bull’s eye

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