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Add tick bite prevention measures to your "to do" list when preparing for outdoor activities. A few simple actions to discourage ticks from getting attached to you can help avoid contracting tick-borne diseases.

While a feeding tick doesn't cause much discomfort and doesn't eat much, there are several reasons to be concerned if one of these small, crawly creatures gets attached to you. And if you think summer and outdoor activities go hand-in-hand, knowing about potential tick bite problems can make your outdoor adventures more enjoyable. Some people have allergic reactions to tick bites. This can cause tick paralysis, especially if the bite is at the base of the skull on the back of the neck. Paralysis can affect part or all of the body. The good news is that you can expect a total recovery after removing the tick. Another reaction is tick toxicosis. It begins with redness and swelling at the site of the bite. It is an uncommon reaction but can be fatal.

Ticks also are carriers of several diseases, including tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and Lyme disease. Symptoms to watch for in the days and weeks following a tick bite are: --Swelling at the site of the bite. In Lyme disease a raised, target-shaped rash begins to develop within a few days, eventually reaching several inches in diameter. --Unexplained flu-like symptoms; fever, headaches, body aches, dizziness. --Any unusual rash. A person infected with a tick-borne disease may have all or none of these symptoms. If you consult a physician, be sure to mention that you've recently been bitten by a tick or were in a tick-infested area. Protective clothing should be your first line of defense against ticks.

When outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and boots with your pants tucked into socks or boots. Rubber bands, blousing bands or tape can be used to secure the cuffs of your pants. Insect repellents also are recommended. Products containing DEET or Permanone are most effective. Be sure to follow label instructions to ensure safe use and best results. One of the most important things you can do when you've been outdoors is a personal body inspection. Once indoors, remove clothing and wash it immediately. Check your body thoroughly for ticks. Look closely; "seed" ticks smaller than a pinhead can be difficult to detect.

Most tick-transmitted diseases are not transferred to the host until the tick has been feeding for some time and is full. The earlier the tick is located and removed, the lower the chance of being infected by the tick-borne pathogen. When you are active outdoors, never allow more than four to eight hours to pass without a thorough tick inspection. If you do find a tick, prompt, proper removal is a must. It is important to remove the tick alive and intact.

Secondary infections from improperly removed ticks are much more common than tick-born diseases. Follow these four steps to remove a tick that is already attached: --Disinfect the area of attachment with alcohol; --Grasp the tick firmly as close to the head as possible. If you use your fingers, cover them with tissue or rubber gloves. Tweezers or forceps also may be helpful. Use only as much pressure as necessary. Squeezing an engorged tick can force material from the tick into your skin. --Remove the tick with a firm outward movement. Never jerk or twist the tick when removing it. It is important that the mouth parts remain attached to the tick, not left embedded in the skin. --Dispose of the tick properly and disinfect the bite area again. Disposal methods recommended include dropping them in alcohol or crushing them with your shoe heel or between two rocks - but never with your fingers. - Arleasha Mays

Uploaded: 2/21/2004