Whether you like to hike, walk your dog or play sports, summer is the perfect time to enjoy your favorite outdoor activity.
However, it’s also a perfect time for ticks.
“The best thing you can do is try to avoid areas with lots of ticks, but I know that’s hard to do if you’re someone that walks your dog and likes to be outside,” Mary Anderson, the Montgomery County public information officer for health and human services, says. “I have a dog and spend a lot of time outside.”
If, like Anderson, you can’t stay away from the great outdoors, there are still things you can do to protect yourself from ticks.
Anderson recommends wearing long sleeves, walking in the center of a trail in grassy areas and applying insect repellent with at least 20 percent DEET to help keep ticks away.
After spending time outside, she says it’s important to perform a thorough tick check on yourself, your children and even your pets.
“Check all the exposed areas, your clothing and around your ankles,” Anderson says. “Take your clothes off and look all over, especially at the hair line and throughout your hair.”
In 2011, Montgomery County saw 286 cases of reported Lyme disease, more than any other Maryland county, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States.
“Montgomery County has had more Lyme disease than anywhere else, though we aren’t the most rural county,” Catherine Rasa, a community health nurse for the county health department, commented.
If you do find a tick on your body, Anderson says you should use tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as you can and try to remove it in whole form to avoid parts breaking off and remaining in your skin. Afterwards, wash your hands and the area on your skin with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Look out for symptoms of Lyme disease, which can appear weeks or months after the removal of the tick and include a bulls-eye red mark around the area, headaches and fever, Anderson says. If you notice any of these signs and have removed a tick recently, see your physician.