Tick Bites Cases on the Rise in the ER
Since the beginning of February, the J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital Emergency Room has seen over 30 cases of tick bites. The ER staff wants the community to be aware of the high rate of tick bites and take precautions when spending time outdoors.
Ticks are tiny bugs that feed on blood. They have eight legs and range in size from a pencil tip to a pencil eraser. Humans and animals usually pick up ticks when walking or sitting in tall grass, bushes or woods at almost any time of the year. When a tick bites, it burrows its head into the skin and feeds on blood. A tick may feed for several days to weeks. When the tick is engorged (full of blood), it drops off. An engorged tick is blue-gray in color. Ticks carry germs that cause a variety of infectious diseases, like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Symptoms of tick-born disease can take several days to weeks to appear. General symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, facial muscle weakness, swollen glands, red itchy eyes and blurred vision. A skin rash, especially in the shape of a “bull’s eye,” is a telltale sign.
To avoid tick bites and prevent tick-borne diseases, one should:
• Apply insect repellent that works against ticks, when working in the yard and walking in the woods.
• Wear light-colored clothing, tuck shirt into pants and pants into boots or socks when walking in tall grass, bushes or woods. Try to stay on cleared trails.
• Check clothing and skin thoroughly if you have been in an area that may have ticks.
• Regularly check pets that go outside into tall grass and woods.
If a tick is found, and it has not burrowed too deeply into the skin, someone can try to remove it. Here’s how:
1. Put on protective plastic gloves to avoid touching the tick and blood.
2. Use tweezers to gently grasp the tick close to the skin. Don’t use petroleum jelly or try to burn it out.
3. Without squeezing the tick, lift it slowly and steadily out of the skin. Don’t jerk or yank it out.
4. Clean the site with soap and water and apply an antiseptic like rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
5. Remove and dispose of the gloves, and wash hands with soap and water.
If a person develops symptoms of tick-borne disease, he or she should call their family doctor or go to the Emergency Department.