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It's Bug Season!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Fleas and ticks

It would be next to impossible to live in NY and never be bitten by a mosquito, tick, or flea. These critters can be vectors or carriers for pathogens (germs). Not all insects carry pathogens but some do. The person bitten by a vector insect may contract a vector-borne disease like dengue, Zika, Lyme, or plague. Recently, the CDC reported that disease cases from mosquito, tick, and flea bites tripled in the US from 2004 to 2016. More than 640,000 disease cases were counted during that period. Now that the warm weather has arrived, it is important to be vigilant and protect ourselves from insect bites. 

The CDC recommends the following steps to reduce the chance of insect bites.

Protection Against Mosquitos, Ticks, and Fleas

Daytime is the most dangerous

Mosquitoes that spread Zika are aggressive daytime biters. They can also bite at night.

Use insect repellent - It works!

Look for the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.

Wear protective clothes

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants or use insect repellent. For extra protection, treat clothing with permethrin.

Mosquito-proof your home

Use screens on windows and doors. Use air conditioning when available.

Avoid high grass

Avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter and walk in the center of trails when hiking.

Treat dogs and cats for ticks and fleas

Dogs and cats are very susceptible to tick and flea bites and to some tick-borne diseases. They may also bring ticks into your home. Tick collars, sprays, shampoos, or monthly “top spot” medications help protect against ticks.

Wash off

Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find crawling ticks before they bite you.

Body check

Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon returning from tick-infested areas. Parents should help children check thoroughly for ticks. Remove any ticks right away.

Dry clothes

Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, add extra time.

Prep your yard

·       Eliminate standing water in birdbaths, tires, wading pools, etc. as mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water.

·       Remove leaf litter.

·       Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.

·       Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.

·       Mow the lawn frequently.

·       Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents).

·       Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees.

·       Discourage unwelcome animals (such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs) from entering your yard by constructing fences.

·       Remove old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.

If you find a tick attached to your skin, do not panic. Remove ticks easily with the following technique:

1.      Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.

2.      Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouthparts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

3.      After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

4.      Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers. It is a good idea to keep the tick in a dry jar or sealed plastic bag and save it in the freezer for testing in case you develop symptoms of infection. Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible – not waiting for it to detach.

5.      Then monitor yourself or others for symptoms of infection for 30 days after the removal of the tick. Symptoms of infection are general flu-like symptoms, headache, fever, and in the case of Lyme disease, may include a rash that is at least 2 inches in diameter and expands over time. 

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have article suggestions or questions, contact Lorraine at or 585-335-4327. 

Media Contact

Mary Sue Dehn

(585) 335-4323

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