Indiana health officials are urging Hoosiers to protect themselves from tick bites during and after spending time outdoors as warmer weather increases tick activity.
“We are all ready to enjoy the outdoors again after being inside over much of the winter,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H. “We ask Hoosiers to take precautions so we don’t see a bump in tick-borne illnesses, which are preventable.”
While Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Indiana, Hoosiers are also at risk for other tick-borne diseases, including ehrlichiosis and spotted fever group rickettsiosis (a group of diseases that includes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever). While the risk for ehrlichiosis is highest in southern Indiana, tick-borne diseases are present in all parts of the state, so all Hoosiers should take steps to prevent tick bites from early spring through late fall. Those precautions include:
- Knowing where ticks are likely to be present (close to the ground in grassy, brushy or wooded areas)
- Treating boots, clothing and outdoor gear with 0.5% permethrin (NOTE: permethrin should NOT be used on bare skin)
- Using EPA-registered insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undecanone
- Treating pets for ticks in consultation with a veterinarian
Once indoors, people should thoroughly check for ticks on clothing, gear, pets and skin. Tumbling clothes in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes will kill ticks, and showering can help remove any unattached ticks.
“Tick checks are an essential part of preventing tick-borne illnesses. Quickly finding and removing a tick can help prevent you from becoming sick,” Brown said.
Ticks can be safely removed by using tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin and then pulling outward with steady and even pressure. After the tick is removed, the area should be washed thoroughly. Ticks should never be crushed with the fingernails.
If desired, an attached tick that has been removed may be saved in a sealed bag or container of alcohol for later inspection in case the person or pet becomes ill. Alternatively, ticks may be flushed down the toilet or wrapped tightly in tape and thrown in the trash. Testing ticks to see if they are carrying diseases is not generally recommended, as the information cannot reliably be used to predict whether disease transmission occurred.
Anyone who becomes ill after finding an attached tick should see a medical provider immediately and alert the provider to the exposure. Most tick-borne diseases can be treated with antibiotics, and prompt diagnosis can help prevent complications.
For more information about ticks and how to prevent the diseases they carry, visit http://www.in.gov/isdh/20491.htm.