Tick season is here. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) remind the public to Fight the Bite this spring by taking steps to protect themselves from tick bites that may lead to Lyme disease or other illnesses spread by ticks.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by deer ticks, which can be as small as a poppy seed. Deer ticks are common in Wisconsin and live in wooded areas and brushy or grassy areas adjacent to woods. Because of their small size, deer tick bites can often go unnoticed. Now that spring temperatures have arrived, ticks are out once again.
You can limit your chance of contracting Lyme disease and other illnesses spread by ticks by taking measures to avoid tick bites:
- Cover as much of your body as possible; ideally wear long sleeves and pants, and tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks.
- Walk in the center of trails where grass and vegetation are mowed.
- Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to spot and remove quickly.
- Use an EPA-registered insect repellent when you head outdoors. You can also treat your clothes in advance with permethrin.
- Throw your clothes in the dryer for 10 minutes on high heat when you arrive home after recreating.
- Always check yourself, children and pets for ticks, especially behind the knees, under armpits, around the hairline and ears, and at the waist.
If you do find a tick embedded in your body, remain calm and remove it as soon as you find it. To remove the tick, use tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible while gently pulling it up and out in one fluid motion. Make note of the date you removed the tick, as this information may be helpful for your doctor to know. Save the tick in a sealed plastic bag or take a photo of the tick before disposing of it in case you develop symptoms later. The easiest way to dispose of a tick is by putting it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet.
Lyme disease symptoms typically develop between three to 30 days after being bitten by a tick. The often flu-like symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain and nausea. Some people who contract Lyme disease also develop an expanding rash, often in the shape of a bullseye. If you think you or a loved one may have Lyme disease, contact your health care provider right away. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics.
To help Fight the Bite this summer and learn more about Lyme disease, visit the DHS Fight the Bite webpage.