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Germs Nature

Ticks – The Good News First

The good news about ticks is that 95% of confirmed tick bites usually come from one of fourteen states and Alabama isn’t one of them. The bad news is that ticks are with us year round although most active in the warmer months (April-September).  Our recent mild winter followed by a wet spring has increased the infestation of ticks along with a need for more diligence when outdoors.

Most tick bites are resolved by our immune system with no noticeable symptoms if removed correctly when discovered. The recommended method is to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady even pressure.

It’s important to avoid jerking or twisting since this may cause mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If some parts break off, remove as much of the visible parts as possible with tweezers. Any parts you are unable to easily remove should be left for the skin’s natural healing mechanism to deal with.  After removing the tick, carefully clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water. The goal is to remove the tick as soon as possible.  For this reason, coating a tick with nail polish, coating a tick with petroleum jelly and heating a tick only delay removal and are not recommended techniques.

If bitten, you may wonder if the tick needs to be identified or tested for disease. For a number of reasons this is usually not advised. Of course, for your own peace of mind, you can save the tick on a piece of tape or put it in a small container. If symptoms occur, identifying the tick and having it tested may further confirm the source of infection but will probably not change the course of treatment.

For prevention of Lyme disease, there are circumstances where antibiotics may be appropriate.  For example, if a tick has been attached longer than 36 hours and can be reliably identified as an adult or nymphal, there is a case for antibiotics if they can be taken within 72 hours after the tick was removed. 

Ticks are unlikely to be a problem if you live in an urban area, have an indoor occupation, don’t have a dog and seldom do yard work.  Otherwise, you need a strategy for reducing exposure to ticks. Below are links to the best strategies.

For more about ticks in our area and how to deal with tick bites, follow the links below.

As worrisome as ticks may appear, with reasonable prevention and awareness they should rarely present a medical problem. If looking for a relatively tick free zone, let me suggest a morning walk with me around the lakes. I look forward to having you join me.

Nancy Neighbors, MD

By Nancy Neighbors, MD

... Dr. Neighbors provides a blend of traditional family medicine and evidence-based lifestyle medicine in Huntsville, Alabama. When indicated, lifestyle change is recommended as the first line of therapy.

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