They’re lurking in the bushes, waiting to pounce on you, bite you, and potentially give you a tick-borne illness. Eww!
How to stop these little buggers in their tracks? We spoke with Dr. Steven Weisholtz, Infectious Disease Chief at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center to get the scoop.
BM: When does tick season begin, and when does it end?
From about mid April to late May, the nymphs are forming. They are tiny, hard to see, and are unfortunately the most likely to convey infection. You can also get infected by adult ticks through the summer and fall; ticks become less common at the first frost.
BM: Where do ticks typically hang out?
Lyme disease is linked to field mice and deer, so the ticks that carry the infection are usually found in forested areas, tall grass, or dune grass at the beach. You’re not likely to get bitten by a tick at the park, golf course, or on the sidewalk, but it can still happen.
BM: What can you do to protect yourself and your kids from ticks?
Protection is not easy. Insect sprays don’t do a very good job, and ticks can find their way inside clothing. So, the best way is to think about disease prevention. When the kids come in from being outside, inspect them from head to toe, and have them bathe. The ticks have to imbed or seed for 24 – 48 hours in order to convey infection, and can usually be washed off by a shower or bath. If you have a dog, make sure he or she also has good tick protection. Ticks like warm areas – dog fur, pant legs and under t-shirts.
BM: If you find a tick on yourself or your kids, what should you do? What is the best way to remove a tick if you find one?
Pour some rubbing alcohol on it, take a pair of tweezers and gently pull using continuous pressure. There might be a small splinter left behind – that’s fine. It won’t cause infection. You might get a mild skin reaction or some redness, but that’s it.
BM: If you find a live tick - should you save it to show your doctor?
There is a difference of opinion on this. Usually I say no… if people live in endemic area, or the tick has been on for more than 24 hrs, there are prophylactic drugs you can take to keep Lyme disease from happening. Testing is not fool proof. If I had a suspicion that a patient was at risk, I would treat with prophylactic medications.
BM: What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Early symptoms include a circular rash at the site of the bite that expands over time, fever and achiness. These symptoms may develop 3 to 30 days after the exposure.
BM: What should you do if you think you or your kids have Lyme disease?
There’s a lot of anxiety about Lyme disease, but people should know that this is a relatively common infection, treatment is almost always effective, and it’s rare that it causes serious complications. Early blood tests are not reliable (you won’t get a positive result until 6 weeks out) which is why we almost always treat based on the symptoms before confirmatory tests are available. Lingering side effects, including fatigue, achiness go away with time.