Avoid ticks while outside this summer

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The Thumb area, known for vast farmland and tall grasses is not a favorite area for ticks. Ticks are most commonly found in the Upper Peninsula and the western side of Michigan. Although ticks are not prevalent in the Thumb area, one local family medicine physician believes it is smart to be informed and know how to avoid tick bites.

What types of ticks transmit Lyme disease? Female blacklegged ticks, which are also known as deer ticks, are responsible for the spread of Lyme disease. A female blacklegged tick typically needs to be attached to someone for 36 hours or longer for Lyme disease to develop. However, it can be difficult to determine how long a tick has been latched on to someone because the time needed for it to become visibly engorged can vary from two to 30 hours.

There are many types of ticks in Michigan. The most common type of tick in Michigan is the American dog tick, making up 70 percent of the tick population. The second-most common tick is the deer tick consisting of 20 percent of all ticks in Michigan. But can tick bites cause Lyme disease? “The short answer is ‘no,’” says Olivia KS Thiel, MD, a family medicine/obstetric physician at McLaren Thumb Region Primary Care. “Transmission is very rare if tick has been attached less than 48 hours.”

How do I protect myself?

  • Cover up as much skin as possible when going to grassy or wooded areas.
    • Wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants with the pantlegs tucked into socks.
  • Use a bug repellant that contains a chemical such as DEET, IR3535, or Picaridin.
  • Always check clothing after being outside.
    • Remove any ticks.
    • Toss clothes in a dryer and run it on the high-heat cycle for an hour to kill any ticks that remain.
  • Take a shower within two hours of coming inside.
  • What do I do if I am bitten? If a tick is latched on to your skin, it is important to remove it as quickly as possible. The best way to remove a tick is to use a pair of tweezers to grip it by its head and mouth so they do not remain embedded in your skin when the tick is pulled away from where it is attached. Leaving a tick’s head and mouth in the skin does not increase the risk of a tick-borne disease. However, it can raise the risk of infection and should not be left in the body.

    What is treatment for a tick bite? To treat or prevent disease from a bite, several criteria must be met.

    1. Must be a deer tick.
    2. Tick must be attached for more than 36 hours (tick will swell if taking in blood).
    3. Medication started within 72 hours of tick removal.
    4. Person bitten is in a high-risk area (Michigan is not).
    5. Treatment for tick bite is a one-time dose of Doxycycline if person is not allergic. The primary care provider (PCP) can use clinical judgement if preventative treatment should be given.

    “After a tick bite, it is reasonable to watch for a rash developing usually within 30 days that looks like a bullseye target, called Erythema Migrans” says Dr. Thiel. “However, most cases of Lyme disease likely result from a tick that is attached four-five days and falls off without the person ever knowing they were bitten. A PCP can look at any rash and determine the risk of Lyme disease and if treatment is needed. Your provider can also screen for any symptoms patients may be experiencing such as rash, fever, or chills.”

    Looking for a primary care physician in your area? Call (989) 269-6048 to book an appointment with Olivia Thiel, MD.