Can you imagine waking up one day and realizing that your face is falling or your heartbeat is very slow and you are dizzy? What if suddenly one knee was twice the size of the other? Infection with a tick bite can cause these symptoms
Ticks that bite can be very small – often much smaller than the size of a penny. In our area, the black-legged deer tick is the one we need to be most concerned about because it carries Lyme disease. Female ticks filled with blood appear darker and are about one-quarter inch long (about 10 milliliters). The non-fed ticks for adult females are less than 1
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" when it comes to preventing tick bites. Here are some ways to keep ticks out of your skin and clothing:
»Wear light colored clothing so that ticks are clearly visible.
»Put pants in socks so the tick does not reach your skin. Ticks do not jump or do not fly. A tick comes upon a person when the person passes by the bush or leaf on which the tick sits, or it comes to a person by rising from the grass.
»Spray clothing and other equipment with a tick repellent (such as DEET). Check with your child's doctor before spraying a child. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an online tool to help you select the best repellent: http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect.
»Cut the fragile areas in your back yard and / or consider treating the treatment areas with repellent
If you go home from outside, you must remove all ticks from your body:
»Remove all clothes worn outside and wash they are left in hot water to remove any ticks that may be present. If your clothes do not need to be washed, dry them on high heat for 10 minutes to kill the ticks.
»Do a full body tick check. Use a mirror to see all parts of your body and ask for help to check places you can not see. Remember how small ticks can be. It can only look like a stain and it can hide between the toes or behind the ears.
»If you find a tick on your body, mark the date of a tick bite in a calendar. If you get sick, you can tell your doctor when you were bitten. Tick bite symptoms begin a few days to several weeks after the bite.
Preventing ticks from your pets is also important to remember. Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and the diseases they carry. Vaccines do not prevent all tick-borne diseases and also prevent your dog from bringing ticks into the house. For these reasons, it is important to use a tick-repellent product in your dog. To reduce the likelihood of a tick transmitting disease to you or your pets, remember:
»Check your pets daily for ticks and especially after spending time outdoors.
»If you find a tick, remove it immediately and mark the date in the calendar. This will help inform your veterinarian if your pet becomes ill.
»Talk to your veterinarian about the best contraceptives.
Marcia Hornberger is a district epidemiologist for the Thomas Jefferson Health District.
This column promotes community health, sponsored by the Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, the Ten Community Services Board, the Thomas Jefferson Health District, and the University of Virginia Health System.