Take precautions to avoid ticks and the diseases they carry

Special to the Herald-LeaderAugust 5, 2013 

LaDow, Central Baptist

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While you are outdoors this summer getting some exercise on those walking trails, camping out in the woods and just enjoying the back yard, stay aware of pesky, little critters.

No one wants to pick up unwanted baggage from the dreaded tick.

There are three varieties of ticks found in Kentucky: the lone star, American dog and the blacklegged tick.

As its name suggests, the American dog tick is usually found on pets. This variety, which can get as large as a watermelon seed as an adult, is the primary carrier, in the eastern United States, of the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

The lone star tick is similar in size to the American dog variety and gets its name from the large white spot on the female's dorsal side. Although, not associated with Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease, lone star ticks do carry other diseases, and their bites can itch intensely and cause irritation.

The blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, is responsible for spreading Lyme disease. The smallest of the ticks found in Kentucky, it is about the size of a sesame seed when fully grown, making it difficult to detect.

Here are some tips to help you prevent tick exposure:

■ Stay on clear paths to avoid tall grass and weeds.

■ Wear long pants.

■ Use insect repellent.

■ Inspect your body frequently.

■ Take a warm soapy shower after potential tick exposure.

■ Limit pets' access to tick-infested areas and use tick collars or spot treatment.

■ Create tick-safe zones in your yard by raking up leaves and using a bug spray on the lawn.

The best way to remove a tick is with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Place the tweezers just behind the point of attachment as close to the skin's surface and pull straight out. Don't twist or jerk; this could cause mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin.

Don't fall prey to folklore remedies such as painting the tick with nail polish, putting petroleum jelly on the tick or using a hot match to make the tick detach from the skin. These methods may cause the tick to release chemicals into your bloodstream.

After removing the tick, disinfect the site and your hands with alcohol, iodine scrub or soap and water. After tick exposure if you develop a red, expanding "bull's-eye" rash or flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, consult a physician immediately.

Diana LaDow is a nurse practitioner at Baptist Express Care Clinic in Walmart at Hamburg.

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