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Vidyya, from the Sanskrit "vaidya," a practitioner who has come to understand the science of life.

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Back To Vidyya It's Fall, Time For Leaves, Walks In The Woods And Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Information For Patients - Avoiding Tick Bites

Picture- Tuck pants into socks

Limiting exposure to ticks is the most effective way to reduce the likelihood of Rocky Mountain spotted fever infection. In persons exposed to tick-infested habitats, prompt careful inspection and removal of crawling or attached ticks is an important method of preventing disease. It may take several hours of attachment before organisms are transmitted from the tick to the host.  Currently, no licensed vaccine is available for Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

It is unreasonable to assume that a person can completely eliminate activities that may result in tick exposure. Therefore, prevention measures should be aimed at personal protection:

  • Wear light-colored clothing to allow you to see ticks that are crawling on your clothing.
  • Tuck your pants legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pants legs.
  • Apply repellants to discourage tick attachment. Repellents containing permethrin can be sprayed on boots and clothing, and will last for several days. Repellents containing DEET (n, n-diethyl-m-toluamide) can be applied to the skin, but will last only a few hours before reapplication is necessary. Use DEET with caution on children. Application of large amounts of DEET on children has been associated with adverse reactions.
  • Conduct a body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas by searching your entire body for ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Remove any tick you find on your body.
  • Parents should check their children for ticks, especially in the hair, when returning from potentially tick-infested areas.  Additionally, ticks may be carried into the household on clothing and pets.  Both should be examined carefully.

Figure 17.  Removal of an embedded tick using fine-tipped tweezers

Picture- tick being removed from human skin

To remove attached ticks, use the following procedure:

1. Use fine-tipped tweezers or shield your fingers with a tissue, paper towel, or rubber gloves (Figure 17).  When possible, persons should avoid removing ticks with bare hands. 

2. Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure (Figure 18). Do not twist or jerk the tick; this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin.  (If this happens, remove mouthparts with tweezers.  Consult your health care provider if infection occurs.)

Figure 18.  Tick Removal

Diagram- tick removal process Diagram- tick removal process

3. Do not squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick because its fluids (saliva, body fluids, gut contents) may contain infectious organisms.

4. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water.

5. Save the tick for identification in case you become ill. This may help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis. Place the tick in a plastic bag and put it in your freezer. Write the date of the bite on a piece of paper with a pencil and place it in the bag.

Folklore Remedies Don't Work!

Folklore remedies, such as the use of petroleum jelly or hot matches, do little to encourage a tick to detach from skin. In fact, they may make matters worse by irritating the tick and stimulating it to release additional saliva or regurgitate gut contents, increasing the chances of transmitting the pathogen. These methods of tick removal should be avoided.  A number of tick removal devices have been marketed, but none are better than a plain set of fine tipped tweezers.

Tick Control 

Strategies to reduce populations of vector ticks through area-wide application of acaricides (chemicals that will kill ticks and mites) and control of tick habitats (e.g., leaf litter and brush) have been effective in small-scale trials. New methods being developed include applying acaricides to rodents by using baited tubes, boxes, and feeding stations in areas where these pathogens are endemic. Biological control with fungi, parasitic nematodes, and parasitic wasps may play alternate roles in integrated tick control efforts. Community-based, integrated, tick-management strategies may prove to be an effective public health response to reduce the incidence of tick-borne infections. However, limiting exposure to ticks is currently the most effective method of prevention.

 

 


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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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