With the official start of summer just around the corner, many are spending more time outdoors in areas where ticks are active. HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals, along with Prevea Health, offer the following tips and reminders to help everyone recognize and treat tick-related incidents.
Ticks live in wooded areas and areas with high grass, and crawl on to people and animals as they brush against leaves or grass. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, there are two common types of ticks that spread disease to animals and humans: deer (black-legged) ticks and wood (dog) ticks. Wood ticks have whitish markings on the body, while deer ticks are reddish to dark brown in appearance without white markings. Deer ticks are also usually smaller.
Deer ticks are a known carrier of Lyme disease. Wisconsin had 3,105 estimated cases of Lyme disease in 2018, and the average number of reported cases has more than doubled over the last 10 years. With Lyme disease, illness usually occurs within 3 to 30 days after being exposed to an infected deer tick. Symptoms may include rash, flu-like symptoms (headache, fever, muscle aches and joint pain) and enlarged lymph nodes.
The most common illnesses, other than Lyme disease, are anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are also transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected deer tick. Illness usually occurs within one to three weeks after being exposed to an infected tick. Symptoms may include fever, chills, muscle pain, severe headache, and fatigue.
If you are experiencing the above symptoms and think you’ve been exposed to an infected tick, call your primary care provider to determine if you should schedule an appointment or seek medical treatment. Prevea health centers and urgent care locations across the Chippewa Valley, and HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital urgent care are also open and available to assist with tick and other insect bite-related concerns. You can also seek care from the comfort of home with Prevea Virtual Care at www.prevea.com/virtualcare.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Getting a Tick Bite
- Dress appropriately: wear light-colored clothing, long pants and sleeves; tuck in shirts, tuck pants into socks and wear closed-toed shoes.
- Use insect repellents on skin that contain at least 20 percent DEET (Do not use insect repellent on children younger than 2 months old, or on a child’s hands, eyes or mouth).
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear, or treat your gear and clothing with permethrin before departure.
- Stay out of tall grass, brush or heavily wooded areas.
How to Properly Remove a Tick
- Use tweezers to grasp the tick (as close to the skin as possible).
- Pull backwards gently but firmly, using an even pressure, do not twist or jerk.
- Do not squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick. This can cause the tick to inject body fluids and increase the risk for infection.
- After removing the tick, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Note: If any part of the mouth of the tick remains in the skin, it’s recommended to leave it alone as it will come out on its own. Attempting to remove these parts may result in skin trauma and increase your risk of infection not associated with Lyme disease.
You may have heard about common remedies for removing ticks such as smoldering with a match; however, this is not recommended as it may burn the skin and increase risk of infections. Using nail polish, petroleum jelly, liquid soap or kerosene is also not recommended. Although these products may help to remove the tick, they can cause the tick to inject body fluids into the wound, which may increase the risk of Lyme disease.
To learn more about ticks and tick-borne diseases, please visit: www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/tick