Beware of tick seasonDr. Veita Bland / July 16, 2021
The foggy glass of COVID-19 occupies so much of our lives. It takes up all the air in the room. We saw less cases of flu during the fall and winter due to the wearing of masks. We are now in the midst of summer in the south and little to no attention has been given to the subject of ticks, specifically, the Rocky Mountain wood tick and its respective bites. Nor have we heard many people complain about the ticks that bring Lyme disease (deer ticks) our way.
So, why might that be? No self-respecting tick would give a hoot about a mask. So, that cannot be the reason. People as a whole, have been communing with nature even more than usual. Most of our national and state parks are under duress because of the surge of people trying to find their piece of space and quiet as they try to escape COVID-19. So, that also cannot be the reason.
The states and the federal government keep track of the cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease. So far, the case numbers reported this season have plummeted.
So, what is the reason for this? Have COVID-19 weary healthcare providers been too exhausted to report the cases? Are we for some reason just not seeing as many cases this year? Are the ticks hiding from us?
Well, the answer is somewhere in the mix. This summer, I have seen in my office only two cases where patients raised concerns about a tick bite. Luckily, both were negative. Before we get so happy on the subject of fewer tick bites, let’s not forget that we are still in the midst of the summer season and everyone must be on guard, especially people who enjoy hiking or taking nature walks in wooded areas. Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself by wearing tick repellents that contain Deet and ward off ticks. Yes, I know it is hot outside, but wearing the appropriate protective attire is extremely important. If you frequent the aforementioned areas where ticks may be found (Eg. where deer may roam), you should wear long sleeves and long pants that are tucked into the shoes you are wearing. Be sure to buy clothing and gear that contains permethrin that will ward off ticks. Wear light colored clothing so you can see the ticks. Take the time to examine your body after communing with nature. Be particularly sure to examine areas on your body that you may not typically look at such as under arms, the scalp, the back, between legs, rolls of fat, you get it. If possible, have someone examine some of these areas for you. Fully examine your children when they have been outside. Take time to body check children during their evening bath and fully examine their skin. Remind your teens of what to look for. Check your dogs for ticks.
Look online to see what ticks look like so you can be familiar with the distinctive characteristics of the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the deer tick. If you find one, carefully remove it so that all of its body parts are removed. There are electric probes you can buy that will give a very mild shock to the tick to encourage it to turn loose. I would suggest that all home First Aid kits be equipped with such a probe. Use tweezers to handle the tick. You do not want to rupture it and then infect yourself.
We do not want anyone to have to go through Rocky Mountain spotted fever. This can be lethal but most times it is curable. This illness may start off with nonspecific symptoms such as fever, headache, malaise and stomach pain. A rash may appear several days later. Many times, people have no idea they have suffered a tick bite. It is important that the healthcare provider be informed of your activities so they have a suspicion of the cause. They will want to treat you most likely before a confirmatory test comes back from the lab.
Continue to commune with nature. It is good for you to be out getting fresh air. Just like in any situation, be respectful of your surroundings.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at email@example.com.