Beware of ticks!

My husband and I spend a lot of time outside in the summer. We’re used to pulling ticks off our animals and once in a while we will find one of the creepy things on us. About a month ago, my husband found a deer tick on his stomach. A day or two later, the area where the tick had bitten him was itchy and red. We kept the area clean and treated it with an antibiotic cream and fortunately, that was the end of it. We were lucky because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now reporting that the number of people who get sick from tick bites is about 10 times higher than originally thought. 

The CDC now estimates that Lyme disease, the most common disease caused by ticks, strikes more than 300,000 people each year. But don’t panic. Most of the time, tick bites are just icky and not harmful. Some tick bites, though — especially those not treated promptly — can cause serious and occasionally fatal illnesses. So what do you need to know?

First off, think prevention. When you’re in wooded areas, wear light-colored clothing so you can see ticks before they bite. Wear insect repellent and be sure to reapply it as recommended. Remember to check yourself for ticks after you’ve been in a wooded or grassy area. If you find a tick, the CDC says to use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the head as possible and pull it straight out, then wash the area with alcohol. Forgo home-remedy treatments like coating the tick with nail polish or Vaseline.

If you get a tick bite or have been in an area where you know ticks are common, get medical attention if you develop the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • A rash like a bull’s-eye around the tick bite

Lyme disease is not common in Kentucky or Indiana. Ninety-six percent of all cases occur in 13 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Most of the time, such as in my husband’s case, tick bites are no big deal. But if you develop the symptoms I listed above, see a doctor, who might prescribe an antibiotic. Early recognition and treatment decrease the risk of any serious problems.

–Jackie Hays