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Caution: It's tick time in Tennessee

Larry Woody • Dec 15, 2015 at 1:56 PM

The warming weather means ticks are becoming active, and the only sure way to avoid picking up one of the irritating little hitchhikers is to remain indoors.

Since staying indoors would put a crimp on our outdoors activities, about all that fishermen, hikers, campers and folks who garden and do yard-work can do is take some precautions possible.

One outdoors website offers some tick tips, starting with keeping pant legs and shirt trails tucked in when walking through prime tick country such as bushes and tall grass. Ticks tend to craw upwards after latching onto shoes and clothing, so tucked-in clothes help block their progress. Some outdoorsmen go so far as taping their pant legs tight.

Wear light-colored clothing; it’s easier to see ticks crawling around and brush them off before they get a chance to dig in.

Apply a tick repellent before going outdoors and re-apply periodically. Experts recommend using a repellent that contains 0.5 percent or more of permethrin. Even if the repellant doesn’t contain that particular ingredient, any commercial anti-tick spray is better than none. Check directions to see if it can be applied directly to the skin, or if it should be sprayed only on clothing. Old-timers used kerosene as a repellent.

Buying a good tick repellent and using it liberally is a good investment.

Despite all precautions, odds are that you’ll bring home a tick or two if you spend enough time outdoors. After returning home, promptly conduct a thorough body inspection to detect any ticks before they burrow into the skin.

Also immediately wash all clothing that was worn outdoors.

If a tick has latched onto the skin it should be removed promptly. The best method is to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with fine-tipped tweezers and pull it off. Pull slowly, so as not to break off the head and leave it imbedded in the skin. That can cause an infection even if the tick is not carrying a disease.

Once the tick bites, even if latched on for a short period, it has the potential to impart any disease it carries to the host. Those diseases include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease. Both can be extremely serious, and in rare cases fatal. Last year there were over 700 cases reported in Tennessee.

It can be weeks after the bite before symptoms are manifest. They include headaches, fever, soreness and stiffness in joints, fatigue, loss of appetite and skin rash.

If you’ve been outdoors in tick territory and afterwards begin to experience any of the symptoms, a doctor should be consulted. Once a disease such as Lyme Disease is full-blown it can take months to recover and the ordeal is often physically debilitating.

Even the bite of a tick that is not infected with a disease can cause an infection, especially if parts of it remain imbedded in the flesh. In some cases antibiotics may be necessary to combat the infection.

The majority of tick bites aren’t that serious – they’re mostly just itchy and irritating.

But you never know which bite could be minor and which one could be serious. And one serious bite could cause big problems.

The only thing outdoorsmen can do is take a few sensible precautions – starting with ample applications of tick repellent – and keeping an eye out for them before they latch on.

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