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4 Tips for Tick Safety

Wood ticks in NCSummer is the perfect time for cookouts, camping, and lake trips. It’s also the season of ticks. You may be hearing all sorts of ideas from friends and neighbors about tick removal and illnesses caused by various ticks, but how do you know what is medically sound advice? Drs. David Massey and Stephen Hunter, family medicine doctors with Cone Health, offer these guidelines to tick bite safety and ticks found in North Carolina.

1. Protect

You can get a tick bite outside in your yard or at a playground, not just in the woods.

“When you’re outside, use tick repellent (with DEET) on exposed skin,” says Massey. “Be sure to follow product instructions and precautions. Parents should apply these products to their children.”

You should also prevent ticks from hitching a ride into your house by way of a dog or cat. Check your pet for ticks after they have been outside.

Clothing that’s been worn outside can be put in a clothes dryer to kill ticks and stop them from making their way into a closet or dresser from a pants leg, shirt sleeve, or sock.

If you’re going camping, hiking, or fishing, consider soaking your clothes and gear in permethrin. This repellent is designed for fabric and can stay in your clothes for four to six weeks and survive several laundry cycles.

2. Check

Be sure to check yourself and your children for ticks after time outside. If you’re not able to check for ticks right away, be sure to check before you go to bed. The longer the tick is attached, the higher the chance it could transmit disease.

Ticks tend to prefer warmer parts of the body, such as the armpits, scalp, and groin. Other common areas for ticks to burrow are behind the ears, behind the knees, and around the waist.

3. Remove

Many people used to believe holding a hot match to the tick or smothering it with vaseline or alcohol was the best method of removal. However, Massey recommends following the CDC recommendation of using fine-tipped tweezers to pull the tick straight out.

Save the tick in an airtight baggie or jar. That way, if you develop any troubling symptoms later, the doctor can send the tick off to a lab for identification.

After removal, you should thoroughly clean the bite area with alcohol, followed by soap and water.

4. Watch

If you’ve been bitten, there is no need to call the doctor unless you develop symptoms. “A tick bite doesn’t automatically mean the tick has infected you with a disease,” says Hunter.  

“However, you should see a physician immediately if you develop flu-like symptoms after a tick bite. Watch for a fever, headaches, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, vomiting, and a rash.”

Quick Care for Tick Bite Symptoms

You can get quick, convenient care for tick bite symptoms 24/7 with video visits offered by Cone Health Connected Care. Board-certified doctors, including Drs. Massey and Hunter, can assess adults and children for the signs of illnesses caused by ticks. If an antibiotic is needed, a prescription can be sent to the pharmacy of your choice.

Connected Care also offers options for phone visits and e-Visits. Learn more about online visits and register today.

Keep reading to learn more about the types of ticks found in North Carolina and the specific symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, and other tick- borne illnesses in our area.

Types of Ticks in North Carolina

  • Dog Ticks

The American Dog tick is the most common type of tick found in North Carolina. This tick can spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Symptoms include a fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle pain. A rash may also develop after a few days, but some patients never develop a rash. Antibiotics are used to treat Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

  • Gulf Coast Ticks

These ticks look similar to the American Dog Tick and spread a disease that is similar to but less severe than Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This illness falls into a category call other Spotted Fever Rickettsial Diseases. Because lab tests are not able to distinguish between this other spotted fever and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, the illnesses are treated the same.

  • Deer Ticks

Deer ticks can spread Lyme disease. Lyme disease symptoms include a fever, headache, fatigue, and bull’s eye shaped skin rash. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics.

  • Lone Star Ticks

These ticks can spread two types of disease: ehrlichiosis and southern tick associated rash illness (STARI).

Typical symptoms of ehrlichiosis include fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Other signs may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, joint pains, confusion, and occasionally a rash, particularly in children.

STARI has a bull’s eye rash, similar to Lyme disease, and also is typically accompanied by fever and fatigue. However, STARI has not been linked to any chronic joint pain or neurological symptoms.

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