Bug Off: How to Remove a Tick – and Keep It Away in the First Place

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Christopher Byrne, RPA-C with Advanced Dermatology PC, Shares Tips on Keeping Outdoor-Fun Tick-Free

Chris Byrne, RPA-C

Prevention and early treatment are very important. Lyme disease can become a serious multisystem illness that affects the nervous system, joints, and heart.

The Lyme-disease VIP list includes supermodels, movie stars, and megawatt musicians: Bella Hadid, Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Justin Bieber, Avril Lavigne, Shania Twain, Daryl Hall, and Kris Kristofferson. “Since scientists identified the Lyme bacteria in 1982,” notes Christopher Byrne, a certified registered physician’s assistant specializing in dermatology with Advanced Dermatology PC, “the disease has exploded. The public faces that have shared their battles reflect that surge.”

The CDC estimates that every year more than 300,000 people in the country are infected, with reported cases tripling since the 1990s. “Lyme disease,” states Byrne, “is this country’s number-one vector-borne disease – an illness spread through blood by an insect or tick bite, in the case of Lyme, a bite from the blacklegged tick.”

When a tick bites, it can transmit disease. “Like mosquitoes,” Byrne explains, “if a tick previously ate from an infected animal, they can pass along whatever that animal was carrying.”

Blacklegged ticks can now be found in 43 states. “The pathogens the ticks carry,” observes Byrne, “have spread too: in addition to the Lyme bacteria, infectious organisms such as babesia, anaplasma, and ehrlichia.”

Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment remains challenging. Currently, the federal Tick-Borne Disease Working Group, created by Congress, is meeting to provide recommendations on treatment and research.

“Prevention and early treatment are very important,” emphasizes Byrne. “Lyme disease can become a serious multisystem illness that affects the nervous system, joints, and heart. Practicing tick-awareness – keeping them away and, if exposed, removing them promptly – is key to safely enjoying time in our backyard, the park, or at the beach.”    

With that in mind, Byrne offers the following suggestions:

5 Tips for Getting Ticks Off and Keeping Them Away:
1. Remember your daily tick-check: “Blacklegged ticks are typically active from spring to fall,” says Byrne. “They’re tiny – the size of a poppy seed in the spring, a sesame seed by the fall. And they like hidden spots: our groin, belly button, underarms, and scalp. Mirrors can help with a full-body check. And showering soon after coming in can assist in feeling for any bumps.”    

2. Find a tick? Prompt, safe removal is key: “The sooner you remove the tick, the lower the risk of Lyme disease,” notes Byrne. “Transmission is reduced if the tick comes off within 24 hours. Careful removal is important: Use a fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull straight up, without twisting, to completely remove the tick. Don’t touch or crush the tick. It can be flushed, but you may want to save it in a plastic bag for identification or for disease testing, for example through the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Tick Report lab. Thoroughly disinfect the bite area and wash your hands.”

3. After the bite? Consider your options: “You’ll want to circle the bite area and monitor it,” advises Byrne. “Lyme bacteria can cause a range of rashes, which need prompt treatment. But frequently a rash does not occur, and fatigue, aches, or flu-like symptoms also require immediate treatment. Especially in high-Lyme areas, you can consider a prophylactic course of doxycycline.” The not-for-profit medical association the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society publishes guidelines that discuss treatment choices.

4. Remember, prevention first! “Picaridin- or DEET-based repellent can ward off the bugs,” states Byrne. “And treating shoes, clothes, and gear with permethrin spray can block a tick’s journey. Wear light-colored clothing with pants tucked into socks. And stay away from high grasses, leafy areas, stone walls, or trail borders where ticks wait to latch on. Likewise, yard areas should have short grass with hang-out spots away from tick-friendly zones.”

5. Don’t give ticks a ride inside: “Pet owners,” says Byrne, “will want to be careful that ticks aren’t hitching along. The bugs can also sneak in on clothes: Throwing outdoor wear in the dryer on high for ten minutes can zap hidden ticks – which will survive the washer.”    

“Cultivating tick awareness,” concludes Byrne, “can keep the outdoors safe for us and our personal VIPs year round.”

Bio: Christopher Byrne RPA-C is a certified physician assistant with Advanced Dermatology PC.

Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies. http://www.advanceddermatologypc.com. 888-747-5273

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