Tick Check

    Booting Unwanted Summer Guests

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    Richmond families can count on summertime for fun on the James, watermelon in Cary town, tomatoes from Hanover, and the three Hs in our forecast: hazy, hot, and humid. This year, summertime is also bringing us an abundance of ticks.

    Ticks are not only a nuisance, but they can also transmit disease. Of particular concern this year has been Lyme disease.From 2004 to 2008, reported cases of this illness in Virginia have almost quadrupled. The abundance of deer and mice, combined with an unusually wet spring, has led to an even higher incidence of Lyme disease this year. In May, health care providers received a letter from the Virginia Department of Health urging vigilance.

    Lyme disease presents with flu-like symptoms, fever, chills, sore throat, and achy muscles and joints. Erythema migraines (EM), a bull’s-eye rash with raised borders and a pale center, is seen in approximately 60 percent of cases several days to a month after the bite.Tick bites can cause local redness and inflammation. To qualify as EM, the area must be at least two inches in diameter.Once diagnosed, Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. Untreated Lyme infection may progress to affect the joints, nervous system, and heart.

    Ticks are natural hitchhikers that reside on the forest floor in low vegetation and grasses, awaiting the opportunity to attach to shoes, clothing, or body parts. They then climb towards warm hideaways to attach and begin feeding.

    Keeping underbrush thinned and grasses cut, and taking care to walk in the center of trails decreases your exposure. While hiking, wear light-colored clothes and long sleeves; tuck pants into socks or Boots. You can treat clothing and shoes, not skin, with .5 percent permethrin.Insect repellent with DEET (less than 50 percent for adults; less than 30 percent for kids) may be used on clothing and shoes and sparingly on the skin. Avoid the face and hands, and do not apply under clothing or to sunburned skin.

    If you find a tick, do not go looking for a match. Not only is there lunacy inherent in applying a match to something attached to your skin, but it can cause the tick to regurgitate into the wound.

    With tweezers, grasp the tick close to the skin and gently, but firmly pull straight. Squeezing or twisting the tick or applying petroleum jelly, nail polish, or alcohol can also cause the tick to regurgitate. Once out, dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet, rinsing it down the drain, or drowning it in alcohol.Wash your hands, and gentlyclean the site of the tick bite.

    Don’t let ticks keep your family from venturing out to enjoy all the summertime activity the area has to offer. Routine tick checks will keep everyone safe. It takes more than 24 hours for the tick to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Checking at least twice a day goes a long way to minimize risk. Be thorough. Remember, ticks love warm hideaways.