Stop the suck: Saint Louis County Department of Public Health lists ways to protect yourself from ticks this summer season

Photo by John Tann

As temperatures continue to rise in the area, St. Louis County health officials have released information that hopes to put you and your family out of the way of ticks who could be carrying diseases, such as Lyme disease.

Saint Louis County Department of Public Health warns that Lyme disease can be carried by the insects, and once latched on could spread to a person who the tick is feeding on.

Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system. Lyme disease occurs when a person is bitten by an infected tick.

Dr. Fredrick Echols, director of communicable disease control services for Saint Louis County Department of Public Health, said Lyme disease can cause lifelong health conditions but there are plenty of ways to prevent getting infected.

“Tickborne illness is very serious and can cause lifelong health issues if contracted,” Echols said “but thankfully there are measures the community can take to prevent these illnesses.”

The Saint Louis County Department of Public Health recommends a number of steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from ticks:

  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Dress appropriately: wear light-colored clothing, wear long pants and sleeves, tuck in shirts, tuck pants into socks, and wear closed-toe shoes.
  • Use insect repellents on the skin that contain ≥20% DEET. (“Natural” products, such as citronella, are not effective.)
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear, or treat your gear and clothing with permethrin before departure.
  • Check for ticks. You should always check your body, clothing, gear, and pets for ticks during and after outdoor activities. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Quickly removing attached ticks and showering within 2 hours of being in a tick-infested area reduces the risk of some tickborne diseases. You should also tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill any remaining ticks. Additional dry time may be needed if clothes are damp.

The health department also said if a person discovers a tick that’s latched on, the best way to remove the bug is to use tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Otherwise, if pulled unevenly, the tick’s mouth-parts could break off and remain in the skin.

The health department instructed if that happens, to remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If a person is unable to remove the mouth-parts easily, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

For more information regarding tickborne diseases such as Lyme disease and others visit CDC’s website.

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