North Carolina’s incidence rate for Lyme disease has increased over the past five years, led by Watauga, Ashe, and Alleghany counties. (1) Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged tick. (2)
While tick exposure can occur year-round, ticks are most active in the late spring and early summer months in North Carolina. Before your next hike, or walk with your dog, take these simple precautions to protect yourself and decrease your risk of getting a tick bite.
Preventing Tick Bites
- Know where to expect ticks. Ticks like wooded, bushy areas and high grasses. Stick to the center of trails and avoid walking through wooded/grassy areas or leaf litter.
- Cover up. When in wooded or grassy areas wear a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, long socks, shoes, and a hat.
- Use insect repellents. Use Environmental Protection Agency registered insect repellents containing DEET on exposed skin or clothing. Always follow product instructions carefully.
- Check your clothing for ticks. Conduct a full body check upon returning indoors. Check in and around your hair, body folds, behind the knees, under the arms, and around the waist.
- Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within a couple hours of coming indoors can help to remove unattached ticks and is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
How to Remove a Tick
If you experience a tick bite, or find a tick attached to your skin, simply remove the tick as soon as possible. The best way to remove a tick is to:
- Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick firmly and as close to the skin as possible; avoid handling the tick with bare fingers
- In a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin; avoid twisting or jerking the tick
- After removing the tick, cleanse the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water
- Never crush the tick’s body with your fingers. Dispose of the tick by:
- Putting it in alcohol,
- Placing it in a sealed bag or container,
- Or flushing it down the toilet
Symptoms of a Tick-Borne Illness
Common symptoms of a tick-borne illness include:
- Fever and chills
- Muscle or joint pain
- Skin rash
- Rashes that form a bull’s-eye pattern are indicative of Lyme Disease, although not everyone with Lyme disease develops a rash. The rash is typically not itchy or painful, but may feel warm (2)
When to call a Healthcare Provider
You should call your provider if:
- You think that the tick has been attached to you for several hours or even a day
- You are unable to completely remove the tick
- You develop flu-like symptoms or a rash of any kind
- You think that the bite site is infected (increasing warmth, swelling, pain, or oozing)
Author: Madi Zaidel, CHES®
Madi is a Certified Health Education Specialist and is currently the Community Health Outreach Specialist for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. Madi holds a degree in Public Health and is working on her master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition. Madi is passionate about health promotion, health education, and holistic well-being, and is an advocate for health at every size (HAES).
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