You’ll probably be getting outside more often with the warmer days and that could expose you to a tiny insect that has the potential to make you very sick.
Iowa Department of Public Health medical director, Patricia Quinlisk, says ticks are becoming more active at this time of year. “Unfortunately the ticks in Iowa carry several diseases — the most common is Lyme disease. And that can be a pretty serious illness,” Quinlisk says.
There were 194 cases of Lyme disease reported in Iowa in 2014 and at least two so far this year. Getting bitten by a tick sounds scary, but Doctor Quinlisk says it is pretty easy to prevent if you keep skin covered in areas where they may be crawling. “Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants and tuck your pants into your socks. I know that’s going to look like a nerd, but it will stop those ticks form coming up underneath your pant leg,” Quinlisk explains. “Then if it’s hot or for some reason if you are going to be in a place where ticks can get on your head, you need to wear insect repellent. And the one that works against ticks is the one that contains DEET,” according to Quinlisk.
You can also avoid wooded and tall grassy areas where ticks are most often found, but she says that doesn’t ensure you won’t find one. “Ticks can be found anywhere, so I’ll just tell you I wear insect repellent containing DEET when I go out into my garden just to be sure,” Quinlisk says. “Certainly the higher risk would be in areas where there is wildlife — where there is deer, small rodents, things like that.”
Quinlisk says you should check yourself for ticks if you have been in an area where they might be prevalent. If you do find a tick, remove it right away to prevent exposure to a disease. She says you don’t want to do anything that would cause a tick to regurgitate into you, because that would expose you to the disease. You should get down as close to your body as you can with your fingernails or tweezers and pull the tick straight out. You should also check your dog for ticks if they have been in an area that may have ticks.
Quinlisk says the ticks can move from your dog our cat onto you when they come inside, and the ticks also carry diseases that dogs and cats can get. Be alert for symptoms that you may’ve been bitten by a tick after being outdoors. “Probably about 50-percent of people get what’s called a bull’s-eye rash — in other words a rash that sort looks like a bull’s-eye. If you get that rash, call your doctor immediately because you need to be put on antibiotics,” Quinlisk says.
If you have been in a tick area and have symptoms, but don’t see the bull’s-eye rash, you should still call your doctor to see about getting treatment.The Iowa State University Medical Entomology laboratory conducts tick surveillance across the state and encourages Iowans to send in tick samples for identification. For more information on tick surveillance, visit: bit.ly/1F5Zloa or call 515-294-0581. To learn more about Lyme disease, visit:bit.ly/1FPGoEN.