After an unusually cool start to spring, warmer weather is drawing Iowans outdoors once again. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) encourages Iowans to take advantage of the many opportunities to become more active outdoors, and also reminds Iowans to protect themselves against tick bites. Ticks can carry the organisms that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis.
"The best way to prevent tick bites is to avoid wooded and grassy areas, where ticks are usually found," said IDPH Public Health Veterinarian & Deputy State Epidemiologist, Dr. Ann Garvey. If you do spend time in these areas:
* Wear long-sleeved shirts and long, light-colored pants tucked into socks or boots.
* Stay on trails when walking or hiking, and avoid high grass.
* Use insect repellants that contain DEET. Read and follow the label directions for application. DEET is not recommended for use on children under 2 months of age. For more information on DEET, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/idph_universalhelp/main.aspx?system=IdphEpiManual&context=DEET_factsheet.
* Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks. Ticks tend to prefer the back of the knee, armpit, scalp, groin, and back of the neck.
If you discover a tick on your body, remove it right away. Folk remedies, such as burning the tick with a match or covering it with petroleum jelly or nail polish, are not effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following instructions for removing a tick:
* Carefully grasp the tick by using tweezers to grip the tick by its mouthparts which are close to the skin. Do not squeeze the tick's body.
* Pull steadily directly away from your skin. Because removing the tick's body is your main goal, don't worry if its mouthparts break off in the process.
* Clean the wound and disinfect the site of the bite.
The most common tick-borne disease is Lyme disease; 163 cases of Lyme disease reported to IDPH in 2012. Not everyone who gets Lyme disease will have the same symptoms, but the best and earliest sign of infection is a rash that may appear within a few days to a month, usually at the site of the tick bite. The rash will first look like a small, red bump, then expand until it begins to look like a bull's eye, with a red center and a red ring surrounding a clear area. It is important to contact your healthcare provider immediately if you develop this type of rash.
For more information on Lyme disease visit www.idph.state.ia.us/idph_universalhelp/main.aspx?system=IdphEpiManual&context=Lyme_Disease_factsheet. The Iowa State University Medical Entomology laboratory conducts tick surveillance across the state and encourages Iowans to send in tick samples for identification. For more information and surveillance data, visit www.ent.iastate.edu/medent/.