They arrived in abundance and their population has not decreased! They will be with us all summer and into the fall. The “they” are ticks which are bothersome, nuisance insects that can carry disease and cause distress for those who find they have unknowingly provided them with a “home” on their body. Tick-borne disease is serious and requires medical treatment as promptly as indicated. Taking action to prevent tick-borne illness is very important.
BLAST* is a strategy to use to decrease your chance of becoming ill with a tick-related disease. Each letter represents an action step you can take: (*The BLAST strategy is a program of the Ridgefield, CT Health Department. Permission has been granted to Quinnipiack Valley Health District (QVHD) to use this concept. The content has been adapted.)
B stands for Bathe or shower soon after coming indoors. Although we think of ticks as being woodland creatures, you don’t have to be a “woodsman” to be exposed to ticks. They are everywhere, so even if you were not in the woods, this step will help to rid you of ticks whenever you are outdoors.
L stands for Look for ticks and remove them with tweezers. Checking your body, especially in the folds of the skin (such as behind the knees and ears and in the groin area) will help you to find ticks, hopefully before they take a blood meal, which is 24-48 hours after attachment. Proper technique for removing ticks is:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers and protect your fingers with a tissue, paper towel, or latex gloves. Avoid removing ticks with your bare hands.
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
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.
A stands for Apply repellents to skin and/or clothing. Many people do not like the idea of using repellents, however, if applied correctly and washed off after use, they are an extremely effective way to prevent tick (and mosquito) bites. You can learn more about repellents at the National Poison Information Center website. The CT Department of Public Health has a fact sheet titled “A Guide to Using Insect Repellents Safely (July 2014) which is available on its website.
S stands for Spray the perimeter of your yard. This step may not be desirable or feasible for all families, due to cost or concerns about insecticides. If this is not something you choose to do, there are strategies for making your yard more tick-proof. The CT Agricultural Center has a bulleting titled “The Tick Management Handbook, Bulletin No. 1010” that can provide you with ways to make your yard tick “safer”.
T stands for Treat Your Pets. Pets can carry in ticks from the outdoors. Just be wary! Sometimes, the tick will be repelled but will still make it indoors and drop off in the house. Check favorite pet sleeping places (including your lap) for ticks.
Other strategies that have been recommended include wearing long pants tucked into socks and long sleeves when in the woods. However, this strategy is not always feasible in 90 degree weather. Keeping the lawn mowed will also help reduce tick populations.
This column is authored by V. Deborah Culligan, QVHD Health Educator. It is not intended to be legal or medical advice and is provided for educational purposes. QVHD, the local health department for Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge, can provide you with a packet of information including the documents listed above if you do not have internet access. Call 203 248-4528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.