There is no better time or place to enjoy nature than summertime in Washington state. But as eager as you may be, don’t forget to practice proper summer safety – and we’re not just talking about sunscreen. Don’t let your summer be ruined by ticks, mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.
Tom Rand, MD, is a pediatrician and pediatric infectious disease specialist with PeaceHealth Medical Group in Bellingham. Here are his guidelines to ensure you and your family have a safe summer:
Some people think tick checks are just an annoyance; that you won’t find the tick or, if you do, you’re already a lost cause. Not true. According to Dr. Rand, tick checks really do work. In fact, regular tick checks outdoors and again upon your return home help prevent disease.
It’s important to check your body for ticks, as well as your clothes. Ticks like to hide under your arms, in or around your ears, on the back of your knees and around your waist. Shower or bathe as soon as you get home. Tick-borne infection is less likely if you limit how long a tick is attached.
Wear bug repellent as a preventative measure against ticks. Repellents for ticks are the same ones we use for mosquitoes. The typical active ingredients in repellent are DEET and picaridin. Dr. Rand also recommends wearing the right clothing to avoid mosquito and tick bites. Bug-resistant clothing consists of long pants, tucked-in shirts and boots. It’s also a good idea to tuck your pant legs into your socks to keep ticks out. You can also treat your clothes with permethrin, an insecticide that can be used on clothing to kill ticks and mosquitoes on contact.
Why protect against mosquitoes and ticks?
Ticks are notorious carriers of infectious disease. The state department of health reports tick-borne diseases in our state include Lyme disease, tick-borne relapsing fever, tick paralysis, tularemia anaplasmosis and abesiosis. Some of these diseases are quite rare in Washington compared to other parts of the U.S. With global warming, the risk of tickborne diseases may change. Some areas previously free of some types of disease-carrying ticks have had ticks introduced via dogs, pack animals and migrating wildlife. Warmer winters allow ticks to survive in areas previously free of some types of ticks.
Mosquitoes bring their own nastiness, with diseases such as West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus is the most important disease contracted from mosquitoes in our area. According to the department of health, West Nile Virus was first introduced in Washington in 2006. Although the risk of contracting West Nile Virus varies year by year, fatal cases have occurred.
To avoid running into pest problems this summer, it’s best to follow Dr. Rand’s guidelines: Always do a tick check, both outside and when you’re back home, use insect repellents and wear protective clothing when participating in outdoor activities.
Courtesy of PeaceHealth Medical Group