Not only are there more native ticks than ever in Connecticut this year, there are also species new to the neighborhood, including the Lone Star tick, the Asian longhorn tick and the Gulf Coast tick.
As our summer season lengthens and temperatures rise, ticks will continue to be a real problem for Connecticut residents. Avoiding ticks is the best way to avoid the diseases that ticks spread. Here, we help remind our patient families to be vigilant about checking themselves and their children for these tiny insects after spending time outdoors, especially in wooded or brushy areas.
Nearly all types of ticks can spread disease. Different ticks transmit different illnesses and there are no vaccines to protect your family. The most common ticks in Connecticut are the dog tick, which can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the black legged or deer tick, which can carry multiple diseases including Lyme disease. The good news is that when a tick is removed from a bite site within 24 hours, there is very little risk of infection. A tick needs at least 24 hours of engorging (drinking blood) to pass along any disease.
We want to go for a hike. What should we do?
First, apply a repellent which contains 20%-30% DEET. Apply this to skin, clothing and any gear and reapply every 3-5 hours. Do not use a repellant with more than 30% DEET on children.
You may also find repellents containing picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus, but these less aggressively effective formulas will need to be reapplied at least every 2 hours.
NOTE – if your child or anyone in your family has an allergic reaction to a repellent, wash the repellent off immediately and call our office.
During your hike, stay in the center of identified, well-worn paths. Don’t walk into low vegetation or brush-filled areas. Wear hats, long sleeves and long pants. Tuck pant cuffs into socks to create a seal so ticks cannot attach to ankles or crawl inside pant legs.
Dress everyone in light colored clothing so any hitchhiking ticks are clearly visible and can be brushed off before you get into the car.
When home, wash clothes in hot water and dry on a high heat setting. Clothing or gear that can’t be washed should be placed in the dryer on the highest heat setting to kill ticks.
What about my backyard?
If your home is near or in a wooded area, clear your child’s play area of underbrush, leaves and tall grasses. Build a 3-foot wide surrounding border of gravel to discourage ticks from entering the play space.
How do we check for ticks?
When your family is back inside, strip off clothes and shower immediately. Tick bites are typically too small to be noticed at first and bites don’t itch or hurt, so a complete body check is important to identify bites, remove ticks and prevent infections.
Look for a small red bump or a red area with a dark spot, sometimes as small as a poppy seed, in the middle. You’ll need to check:
- Throughout hair and hairline
- Behind and around ears
- Back of the neck
- Inner elbows
- Creases of groin
- Behind knees
- Around ankles
- Between toes
YIKES! We found a tick!
Remember, ticks require at least 24 hours to transmit disease, so fast action is important.
Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. With no twisting, use steady, even pressure to pull the tick straight up and out. Clean the area thoroughly with alcohol, warm water and soap.
Call our offices quickly whenever you remove a tick, and especially if you think the tick may have been attached for 36 hours or more. We may recommend a dose of prophylactic antibiotics.
This summer, ticks are going to be a bigger problem than ever before. We should stay vigilant from April through September. Preventing tick bites, if at all possible, and quickly removing them from the skin when they do bite are the best ways to prevent health complications from tick-borne illnesses.
Questions about ticks and symptoms of illness or disease? Please call our office at 203-972-4250. We will be happy to help!