With the weather warming up and spring approaching, flowers are starting to blossom, trees are turning green and the animals — and bugs — are coming out of hiding. The Lantern spoke with Dr. Gladys Gibbs, director of Student Health Services, about preparing for one of those bugs: the tick.
Q: When can ticks be found outdoors and where?
A: Ticks are most active in April through September. Most ticks are located in wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. (Here are) geographic areas where ticks that bite humans are more prevalent.
Q: Are there any health hazards related to ticks that students should be aware of?
A: Ticks can transmit a variety of infectious agents, including bacteria — Lyme disease, typhus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever to name a few — viruses and protozoa. They can also transmit toxins, poisons produced by an organism. Not all ticks are infected.
Q: How do you recognize a tick?
A: After hiking or exposure to (a) wooded area, bathe or shower as soon as possible, preferably within two hours. This will easily wash off ticks that may still be crawling but not having attached. Then conduct a full body search. A hand-held or full-length mirror may be helpful. Check your gear to make sure no ticks have hitched a ride. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill any ticks that might remain on clothing.
Q: How do you safely remove a tick?
A: Use 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 mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouthparts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.
Dispose of a live tick by submerging it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag (or) container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor.