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Lyme Disease | How to Prevent or Remedy a Tick Bite

How to Prevent or Remedy a Tick Bite

Tick bites are usually painless, and the ticks are tiny, and so consequently many people are unaware that they have been bitten. Ticks do not survive in hot, dry areas as it causes their bodies to dry. They can be active when temperatures are above 40F even in the winter.

Good Sense Tips
Avoid brushy, overgrown grassy, and wooded habitats, particularly in spring and early summer when nymphal ticks feed.

Remove leaves, tall grass, and brush from areas surrounding work areas or residential areas, thereby reducing tick, deer, and rodent habitat.

When in potential tick-friendly environments, wear light colored clothing, long sleeves and pants, and tuck pants into socks. Long loose hair should be covered, braided or tied when venturing into areas where ticks are apt to be. Spray your clothing, etc. (also see Repellent Sprays, below).

When coming in from outside activities where you might have encountered ticks, throw clothing into the dryer set on high heat. This will ensure that no ticks survive on your clothing. Remember to do a tick check, take a shower and wash your hair.

Keep pets that have outside exposure off furniture, especially bedding.

Make certain that you have very fine-pointed tweezers available.

Also, see the section on property protection and repellent sprays.

Tick Checks
Thorough tick checks should be done daily or when coming in after outside activities when temperatures are warm and you have been in areas that you may have encountered ticks (ticks can be active even on warm winter days). Check dark, moist areas: hair, cracks behind ears, knees, elbows, underarms, crotch etc. (also see Tick Removal, below).

Check your pets for ticks when they come into the house (also see Protecting Animals, below).

Wear light colored clothing, long sleeves and pants, tuck pants into socks. Long loose hair should be covered, braided or tied when venturing into areas where ticks are apt to be. Spray your clothing, etc. (also see Repellent Sprays, below).

Tick Removal
Ticks should be removed promptly. The longer it is attached the higher the chance of disease transmission. Remove it carefully to prevent disease transmission:

1. Using fine pointed tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible without squeezing the tick's body.

2. Firmly pull it straight out (expect to feel some resistance). Save the tick for future testing by placing it in a plastic bag or in a small jar of alcohol. If a tick is to tested for spirochetes place it in a small jar or vial with a blade of grass to keep it alive. Be sure to note the date and site of the bite for future reference.

3. NEVER: squeeze the tick, burn it, or cover it with Vaseline or any other substance.

4. Remember to disinfect the site of the bite, wash your hands and disinfect your tweezers.

5. Contact your doctor.

Repellent Sprays
DEET products can be used for exposed skin. Several controlled-release DEET formulations have been developed which decrease skin absorbtion and increase protection time. Extended duration products include 3M Ultrathon, Skedaddle, and Sawyer's Controlled Release. Concentrations of DEET effective for mosquitoes, especially for children may not be effective against ticks, so tick checks are vital (see Repellent Sprays section). Read United States EPA information on DEET.

Permethrin 0.5% based sprays (on clothing only, not on skin, always follow manufacturers directions) for clothing, especially: shoes, socks, pants cuffs or on other fabrics such as mosquito netting, tents. It is a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide rather than a true repellant, and works primarily by killing ticks on contact with treated clothes. It lasts up to 2 weeks and provides high levels of protection against ticks and mosquitoes.

These products (Duranon Tick Repellent, Repell Permanone, Cutter Outdoorsman Gear Guard, Permethrin Tick Repellent) usually can be found at sporting goods or garden supply stores. Once dry, Permethrin has a low level of mammalian toxicity, is poorly absorbed through the skin and is rapidly inactivated by the body. Comment: to prevent exposure, do not spray permethrin on clothing on a windy day. Hint: if you regularly do yardwork, you might consider using a set of clothing that you have sprayed with permethrin.

Natural or herbal repellents and other products are marketed for protection against mosquitos, but are probably less effective against ticks. Applications of plant-derived repellents that might reduce tick attachment are less likely to deter a tick from walking across the skin to an untreated area.

If venturing into tick habitat, a combination of both DEET for skin and permethrin on clothing might be considered. Always follow guidelines for using repellant sprays before applying. Consumer Reports, June 2000, "Buzz-off!" contains worthwhile information on insect repellents.

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Bastyr Center Disclaimer

The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.


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