Tick Bites & Summer Protection

With summer finally arriving and outdoor activities on the rise, it is time to think about protecting our skin from annoying and potentially dangerous bug bites. Most of us will likely experience bothersome but generally harmless bites from mosquitos. Though much less common than mosquito bites, tick bites are an important summer threat too. Similar to mosquitos, ticks bite us to obtain a blood meal. However, unlike mosquitos, ticks “latch-on” to our skin for as long as several days in order to feed. The vast majority of tick bites are harmless, but some ticks may spread diseases. For example, local deer ticks can spread Lyme disease to humans. In addition, travelers to Western states are at risk for developing Rocky Mountain spotted fever from tick bites. Ticks may be as small as a sesame seed to as large as a small pea when engorged with their blood meal. It is important to search for ticks on the skin and scalp after spending time outdoors in grassy or wooded areas. Usually, tick bites are painless and not noticed by the victim. If a red rash develops around the site of a tick bite, fever, muscle or joint aches, generalized rashes, or flu-like symptoms develop after a tick bite, it is very important to seek medical attention to evaluate for possible infectious disease.

As with many things health-related, prevention has a much higher value than treatment when it comes to tick bites. Preventing bites can be best achieved by using insect repellants containing DEET. The higher the percentage of DEET in the repellant, the longer it will be effective. Repellant may be sprayed on both the skin and clothing and special care should be exercised to avoid contact with the eyes or inhalation of the spray.

In addition, after  spending time outdoors it is important to check for ticks that may have latched on to the skin. Pay extra attention to skin-fold areas such as behind the knee, the groin, and the underarms, and don’t forget to check the scalp. Ticks can be removed by grasping the head with tweezers and pulling straight away from the skin. Be sure not to leave any remnant of the tick in the skin. If you need assistance with tick removal, call Advanced Dermatology for an urgent care visit and you will be seen for a same day appointment if there is a medical provider on duty.