May 2, 2019
ThedaCare Provider Gives Tips for Helping Prevent Tick Bites, Infections and Diseases
RIPON, Wis – Spring is in full swing, and many of us are itching to get outdoors. While mosquitoes aren’t a problem quite yet, ticks are. Tick season in Wisconsin begins in April and continues throughout the summer.
Steve Rasmussen, MD, family practitioner at ThedaCare Physicians-Ripon, has treated several patients for tick bites and reactions, and he cautions patients to pay attention to them.
“Tick bites aren’t necessarily an emergency, and not all ticks transmit disease,” he explained. “If you find a deer tick attached, I recommend that you see your provider for a treatment to reduce the possibility of developing Lyme disease.”
He also suggests people should be aware of what the indicative Lyme disease bulls-eye rash looks like.
“It’s good to recognize the rash on your body or that of a family member,” he said. “If you notice anything that looks similar to the rash, it is a good idea to be seen.”
Dr. Rasmussen also added that if someone spends a lot of time outdoors and suddenly develops a vague illness with a fever, headache and muscle aches; they should consider the possibility of Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases. They should see their provider to be tested, even if they haven’t found an attached tick or had a rash.
Several types of ticks are active in Wisconsin. The most commonly responsible for transmitting Lyme disease is the blacklegged (deer) tick. Other ticks found in the state include the American dog (wood) tick, brown dog tick and the Lone Star tick. These ticks can transmit a variety of diseases such as ehrlichiosis or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
“Wood ticks aren’t as troublesome,” he said. “Having a deer tick attached should get your attention, especially if you develop a rash. Again I recommend seeing your provider for an assessment. We can treat Lyme disease quickly if caught early, if you ignore it, that’s when the disease can get deeper into the body and cause severe problems.”
He shared these recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to reduce exposure to ticks:
- Reduce leaf litter, mow tall grass and remove brush in your yard that may serve as a tick habitat.
- Walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with vegetation when hiking.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and high boots.
- Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to cover gaps in your clothing.
- Wear light-colored clothing in order to see ticks more easily.
- Check the entire body for ticks promptly after coming indoors from your yard or nature areas.
- Treat clothing, boots and gear with products containing permethrin, a commonly used insecticide. It will remain protective through several washings. Permethrin-treated clothing and gear is also sold. It should not be applied directly to one’s skin.
- Use insect repellants to repel ticks. Some products should not be used on infants under three months old.
After coming in from outdoor activities, the EPA and CDC recommend a full body tick search on yourself, children and pets:
- Check your clothing. Any tick that is found should be disposed of by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet.
- Tumble dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing, hot water is recommended to kill ticks.
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride on clothing, pets and gear and attach to a person later.
- Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks, and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
- Conduct a full body check. Use a handheld or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Back of the knees
- In the hair and around the hairline
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
Dr. Rasmussen follows the CDC’s recommendations for removing a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick as this can cause parts to break off and remain in the skin.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Dr. Rasmussen suggests it’s impossible to avoid ticks completely if you spend time outdoors, which is why it is important to take precautions.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.