BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A number of Louisianians make the best of the summer months by camping with family and friends, hiking, and engaging in other outdoor activities. 

While doing so, it’s important to keep in mind that an outdoor excursion may mean venturing into territory occupied by ticks that carry diseases.

Ticks are tiny external parasites that feed on blood. They can carry disesases such as Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Tick-borne relapsing fever, and Tularemia.

Experts say the parasitic mites are most active when the weather is warm. 

Lyme disease is one of the most commonly known illnesses that a tickbite can cause. 

It can result in fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), more than 35,000 cases of lyme disease are reported annually. 

How to avoid tick bites

So, how can we avoid tick bites while enjoying outdoor activities?

According to LDH, the following four measures can be taken:

Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs. Always walk in the center of trails, in order to avoid ticks.

Use a repellent with DEET (on skin or clothing) or permethrin (on clothing) and wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks. Products containing permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear which can remain protective through several washings.

Repellents containing 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can be applied to the skin, and they can protect up to several hours. Always follow product instructions.

Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding the hands, eyes, and mouth.

Wear light-colored clothing, which allows you to see ticks crawling on your clothing.

Tuck your pant legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up inside of your pant legs. Some ticks can crawl down into shoes and are small enough to crawl through most socks.

When traveling in areas with lone star ticks (which are associated with Southern tick-associated rash illness, ehrlichiosis, and possibly Rocky Mountain spotted fever) you should examine your feet and ankles to ensure that ticks are not attached.

How to check yourself for ticks

LDH also recommends checking yourself, your children, and any pets for ticks after outdoor excursions, even after being in your own backyard.

It suggests using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of the body and paying special attention to the armpits, in and around the ear, inside the belly button, the backs of both knees, in and around your hair, in between the legs, and around the waist. 

What to do if you find a tick

If you find a tick on your body, remove it by following these steps, which have been approved by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC):

-Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

-Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

-After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

-Never crush a tick with your fingers. 

-Dispose of a live tick by either putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

What to do if you are bitten

Experts say if you are bitten by a tick, you should monitor your condition for several weeks. If you develop a rash or fever during that time, it’s imperative that you see your doctor.

When meeting with your physician, be sure to tell them what date you were bitten and where it happened. 

Treatments for Lyme Disease

According to the Mayo Clinic, most people with Lyme disease recover completely with oral antibiotic treatment. Prescribed antibiotics typically include doxycycline for adults and children older than 8, or amoxicillin or cefuroxime for adults, younger children, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. People who develop syndromes after their infection is treated may also be prescribed pain medications that provide symptomatic relief.

The dangers associated with tick bites don’t have to thwart summer’s outdoor activities. 

The likelihood of an unwanted encounter with a tick can be reduced by following LDH guidelines.

Click here for more information, from the CDC, on tick bites and treatment options.