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Saturday, August 26, 2006

How To Avoid Tick Bites

Do you love being outside in the summertime, running through the yard with bare feet or planting in your garden? The whole family can benefit from quality time spent outdoors but certain precautions should be made to avoid tick bites.

Ticks are miniscule bugs that thrive in tall grass, brush, or woodland areas and some are carriers of Lyme Disease, which, if left untreated, can be quite harmful. They do not fly but ticks can latch onto your skin if you rub against them.

Most people do not notice when they have been bitten and the longer they are attached, the greater risk you run of contracting a tick-borne disease. If you expect to go camping or hiking in the woods, take these precautions to avoid tick bites and stay healthy this summer:

1. Tuck your lightweight long pant legs into your socks and tuck your long-sleeved shirt into your pants. This will keep ticks on the outside of your clothes. Clothing should also be tightly woven so ticks do not find their way through the clothing to your skin.

2. Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can easily be seen.

3. Wear repellants with DEET and apply to clothing BUT do not spray your child's hands or face. A concentration of 24% DEET has been shown effective for five hours of protection but do not spray more than once each day.

4. Carefully inspect your entire body when you return inside. Deer ticks are especially small so ask someone to help you. Take extra care to check the scalp since hair can easily hide a tick. Repeat this procedure with your pets that go outside. Long fur also provides the perfect hiding place for ticks.

5. Since deer are carriers for ticks, make your landscaping as deer-resistant as possible to keep the ticks out of your yard. Plant shrubs the deer will not eat, keep your grass cut short, and remove any leaves and debris that often act as a tick breeding ground.

If you are bitten by a tick, carefully remove the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and as quickly as possible. Be sure the entire tick is removed; if you are unsure, seek medical attention. You may also want to keep the tick in a container for identification.

The most common symptom of Lyme Disease is a reddish, round bulls-eye mark at the site of the bite. Other symptoms are fever, joint and muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, swollen glands, and dizziness. If you think you have any of these symptoms, contact your medical provider as soon as possible. The sooner antibiotic treatment begins, the better the chance for full recovery.

There is no need to live in fear of tick bites or to cancel your favorite outdoor activities. Using some extra precautions can keep you tick-free so you can enjoy your time in the great outdoors.

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