The facts about ticks

It’s that time of the year again! Warmer weather has finally arrived in Kentucky and with it comes ticks. Ticks can be found in wooded areas or spots with high grass. They sometimes can even be found in your backyard and on your pets. To help prevent tick bites, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following:

  • Use repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET or picaridin on your skin
  • Use products that contain permethrin on your clothing
  • Use a tick preventative agent on dogs as recommended by a veterinarian

TICK CHECKS

When you come in from areas that might have ticks, be sure to shower as soon as possible and do a tick check on yourself and your children. Be sure to check for ticks all over your body, but especially in these hiding places:

  • Under the arms
  • In and around the ears
  • Inside the belly button
  • Behind the knees
  • Between the legs
  • Around the waist
  • On the hairline and scalp

HOW TO REMOVE A TICK

If you do happen to find a tick, the first thing to do is to remove it. CDC provides information on the best way to do this:

  • With tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick. If you are unable to remove all of the mouth parts of the tick easily, leave them alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, clean the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water
  • Dispose of the live tick by putting it into alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

TYPES OF TICKS AND TICK-BORNE DISEASES

While tick bites are common among adults and children, tick-borne diseases are rare. Only a select number of tick species are able to transmit disease to people. And of the ticks that bite people, different species of ticks carry different diseases. Certain tick species live in different areas of the United States. For example, the tick species that carries Lyme disease, the deer tick or Ixodes scapularis, is not as common in Kentucky as it in the Northeast, so Lyme disease is not frequently seen in people who were bitten by ticks in Kentucky. The dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) which carries the germ that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) which can carry the organism that causes ehrlichiosis, however, can be found in Kentucky.

WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR

There is no medicine that will prevent you from getting Rocky Mountain spotted fever or ehrlichiosis. So, in general, routinely giving an antibiotic after a tick bite is not recommended in our area.  However, you should keep an eye out for fever and any of the following symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Belly pain
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to light

If you or your child develop an illness with these symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately, even if you do not remember getting bitten by a tick. These might be signs of a tickborne disease and lab tests and an antibiotic may be required.

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About Victoria Statler, M.D.

Victoria A. Statler, M.D., M.Sc. hails from Louisville, where she completed her medical degree, pediatric residency, and master's degree at the University of Louisville. She was also the Kosair Charities Fellow in Pediatric Infectious Diseases from 2011-2014. Prior to that, she earned her undergraduate degree from Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. She is a pediatric infectious diseases physician with UofL Physicians and an assistant professor of Pediatrics at UofL. Once she joined the faculty in 2014, she has developed and now leads the Pediatric Transplant Infectious Diseases service with the University of Louisville and Norton Children’s Hospital. She has also received the Peer Clinician-Educator Excellence Award from the Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Statler has given presentations and written a book chapter on tickborne rickettsial diseases. Her other interests include immunization of the immunocompromised host and understanding unexplained fevers in children. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the American Society of Transplantation.

All posts by Victoria Statler, M.D.