- It is important to find and immediately remove any ticks (see below).
- Do a thorough check for ticks periodically during the day, before sleeping, and upon awakening.
- Remove and shake clothing before going inside a tent or shelter.
- Wear light-colored or white long pants, long sleeved shirts, and socks so ticks can be more easily seen; pull socks over pant cuffs.
- Walk in middle of paths away from dense vegetation.
- Use DEET on skin and permethrin on clothing.
Ticks have barbed mouthpieces that firmly anchor them to a host while feeding. Using a small pair of tweezers or forceps grasp the tick as close to its head as possible and gently pull straight out; avoid twisting. Ideally the head will come free with the body leaving a small crater behind. Destroy the tick and thoroughly wash your hands, instruments, and the bite site with soap and water and apply 10% povidone iodine to the site; contact with tick tissue and fluids can transmit disease. Circle the site with a felt-tipped marker and monitor it for a rash or infection. Consult a physician if you experience a rash, fever, headache, joint or muscle pains, or swollen lymph nodes within 30 days of being bitten by a tick.
Tick-borne diseases are secondary to viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Signs, symptoms, and incubation periods vary depending on the specific organism but are often flu-like and many patients develop a rash. Treatment for viral diseases is supportive only. Most tick-borne bacterial and parasitic diseases are treated with 100 - 200 mg dose of doxycycline twice a day for 7-10 days. Although not a silver bullet, a single (one time) 200 mg dose of doxycycline administered to adults upon finding and removing an embedded and engorged tick has been shown to prevent some tick-borne bacterial infections.
This is the first in a series on tick-borne diseases. Keep your eye on future blogs for details on specific diseases, their assessment, and treatment.