(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana health officials are urging Hoosiers to protect themselves from tick bites during and after spending time outdoors as warmer weather increases tick activity.
“We are all ready to enjoy the outdoors again after being inside over much of the winter,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H. “We ask Hoosiers to take precautions, so we don’t see a bump in tick-borne illnesses, which are preventable.”
While Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Indiana, Hoosiers are also at risk for other tick-borne diseases, including ehrlichiosis and spotted fever group rickettsiosis (a group of diseases) including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), officials said.
While the risk for ehrlichiosis is highest in southern Indiana, tick-borne diseases are present in all parts of the state, so all Hoosiers should take steps to prevent tick bites from early spring through late fall.
Those precautions include:
- Knowing where ticks are likely to be present (close to the ground in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas)
- Treating boots, clothing, and outdoor gear with 0.5% permethrin (NOTE: permethrin should NOT be used on bare skin)
- Using EPA-registered insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undecanoate
- Treating pets for ticks in consultation with a veterinarian
Once indoors, officials said people should thoroughly check for ticks on clothing, gear, pets, and skin. Tumbling clothes in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes will kill ticks, and showering can help remove any unattached ticks.
“Tick checks are an essential part of preventing tick-borne illnesses. Quickly finding and removing a tick can help prevent you from becoming sick,” Brown said.
Ticks can be safely removed using tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin and then pull outward with steady and even pressure. After the tick is removed, the area should be washed thoroughly. Ticks should never be crushed with fingernails.
If desired, an attached tick that has been removed may be saved in a sealed bag or container of alcohol for later inspection in case the person or pet becomes ill. Alternatively, ticks may be flushed down the toilet or wrapped tightly in tape and thrown in the trash. Testing ticks to see if they are carrying diseases is not generally recommended, as the information cannot reliably be used to predict whether disease transmission occurred.
After finding an attached tick, anyone who becomes ill should see a medical provider immediately and alert the provider to the exposure. Most tick-borne diseases can be treated with antibiotics, and prompt diagnosis can help prevent complications.
For more information about ticks and how to prevent the diseases they carry, visit http://www.in.gov/isdh/20491.htm.
You also can visit the Indiana Department of Health at www.Statehealth.in.gov for important health and safety information or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and Facebook at www.facebook.com/StateHealthIN.