Written by Lynn B., RN, CSPI and Jayne S., RN, CSPI
While Spring and warmer weather bring a welcome change, those pesky ticks that are found in Spring and Summer are not as welcome. Ticks are not really insects. They are classified as small arachnids and are considered to be a parasite since they live off the blood of their host.
If you are exposed to a tick never hesitate to call the Indiana Poison Center nursing staff 24/7 @ 1-800-222-1222 for advice. For tick removal never use a match or nail polish, but rather apply gentle pressure with tweezers or fingers for extraction. Inspect the bite site to be sure that there are no remaining parts of the tick buried in the skin. Seek medical attention if it appears that part of the tick is still remaining. Upon removal of the tick be sure and wash your hands and the area well with soap and warm water.
Note the date of the bite on the calendar as ticks can carry various diseases. Local reactions such as redness can occur at the bite site. After a tick bite it is important to observe for 4 weeks for flu-like symptoms including a rash or fever. Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection that can have a characteristic "Bulls eye" rash as well as flu like symptoms that can occur anywhere from 3 to 32 days after the bite. Early treatment with antibiotics can help prevent Lyme disease from progressing to other body systems. Lyme disease is seen throughout the United States with more cases reported in the upper Midwest and northeastern regions.
Another disease carried by ticks is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). It RMSF is not common in Indiana, but it is not unheard of either. North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri account for over 60% of reported cases. Symptoms of RMSF which can develop 2 to 14 days after the bite include fever, chills, and achiness. Another symptom could be rash that starts on the wrists and ankles and spreads to the rest of the body. This is a very serious infection and fatalities have resulted.
Several things can be done to help prevent tick bites. Use a repellent on the skin that contains DEET. Check with your pediatrician for the recommended % concentration of DEET that can be safely used on children. Clothes can be treated with a product containing permethrin. After being outside in the woods or grassy areas be sure to take a warm shower and inspect skin and hair for any ticks. Pets can carry ticks inside so talk to your veterinarian about prevention for animals.
The Indiana Poison Center registered nursing staff is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help with any tick exposures or questions.