This time of year is the perfect time to get outside and explore the great outdoors. Hiking, camping, canoeing, fishing…the outdoor possibilities are endless, especially in our region.
But spending time in nature is not without its risks. One common issue in our region, and across the U.S., is ticks. If you spend any amount of time outside this summer, you will probably find a tick on you at some point. But don’t panic. Most ticks are harmless and don’t require medical attention, but some, like the deer tick and wood tick, can carry diseases such as Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so it is important to remember a few tips when enjoying your time outside.
Karen Kuehl, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and a wilderness medicine expert who spent several years treating patients at Yellowstone Hospital in Wyoming, says the main thing is to try avoid ticks in the first place.
She recommends wearing long sleeves, tucking your pants into your boots or socks and using an insect repellant with DEET. And don't forget to check yourself very carefully for ticks when you have spent any time outside.
“The big worry with ticks is if they have been on your body for more than 48 to 72 hours,” Dr. Kuehl explained. “As long as you come out of the woods and check very diligently for ticks and remove them immediately you should not have any problems.”
To remove a tick, Dr. Kuehl’s go-to method is a good pair of tweezers. Just make sure you get as close to the head as possible and remove the entire tick. You do not want the head or any other part of the tick to remain in your skin. Once you have removed the tick, check for any signs of a rash or irritation.
“Some ticks will leave a red mark or an itchy bite and that is ok,” said Dr. Kuehl. “However, if you have a rash or red spot that looks like a bulls-eye or target symbol then you need to see your physician immediately for evaluation.”
Don't forget to check your pets, too! Enjoy your time outdoors.