Tick-borne diseases are dangerous and even deadly, but there are many different ways for you to prevent tick-borne diseases, including clothing choices, insect repellent, training, site awareness, Deet, personal inspections, and a number of other strategies.
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What are Tick-Borne Diseases?
During the spring and summer months, in heavily wooded or previously uninhabited areas, tick-borne diseases are becoming a serious problem. Thousands of cases of these conditions are being reported every year, and the numbers are growing as people continue expanding into and settling areas where ticks are found in high concentrations. Most ticks feed on the blood of their animal host, but this also means that they can become infected by illnesses of their host. If these ticks then come in contact with humans, and feed on their blood, certain infections can be passed along. The most common tick-borne diseases are Lyme Disease, ehrlichiosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and tularemia, among other less common varieties. The symptoms of each particular illness are unique, and require different treatments, which is why prevention is always the best choice.
Heavily wooded areas, high levels of bush, or dry, leafy conditions are all perfect for ticks to thrive, and it is at this point that the transfer to humans usually occurs. Therefore, while ticks primarily affect workers in these areas, travelers, hikers, campers and other outdoor activity enthusiasts should also be aware of precautions that should be taken to prevent tick-borne diseases. Again, ticks are most active between April and September, so extra caution should be taken at these times of year. Now, let’s take a closer look at the best strategies to prevent these infections.
Prevention of Tick-Borne Diseases
Prevention for Tick-Borne Diseases includes:
If you are in an outdoors industry for any reason, from camp counselor to lumberjack, it is important to know as much as you can about your surroundings. Do your due diligence by asking your employer about previous tick activity or the specific areas where your job will require you to go. When working on the site, try to avoid excess exposure to bushes, tight brush, or dry, leafy piles. This simple site awareness can do wonders for your preventative efforts.
Personal Protective Equipment
Clothing choices are always important in the prevention of tick-borne diseases. Long sleeves and long pants, as well as thick-soled boots, socks and a hat represent a solid start to your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in a tick-concentrated area.
DEET or Repellent
A common-sense strategy if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in areas containing ticks is to simply apply insect repellent regularly. Repellents that contain DEET are highly recommended, especially for backcountry work where a bit more strength is required to keep insects at bay. Workers should be encouraged to reapply the repellent as often as necessary while at the worksite, and the repellent should be provided for workers.
Many people who take jobs in forests or other wooded areas often don’t know about the risk of ticks and tick-borne diseases. Companies should be responsible for training on this important topic, and workers should educate themselves about what ticks look like, what the rashes on their skin might mean, and the appropriate avenues to follow in case a tick bites looks like it is becoming infected.
On a daily basis (or even more frequently, if possible), you should perform a simple tick check on the exposed parts of your skin. In the morning before you get dressed is usually a good time, as well as any time you may be getting into or out of the shower. Check any and all areas of the body, but pay particular attention to areas near exposed skin from your last time outside.
Protect Your Pets
Many ticks get into your home or life through your pets, as your energetic puppy might go crashing through wooded areas without any real concern for what ticks or bugs he is picking up along the way. You should regularly check your pets for ticks, especially following a hike, as these ticks can not only get your pets sick, but also detach and infect other members of your family during contact with your pet.
Wash and Dry All Your Clothes
After spending any amount of time out in the wilderness, it is important to clean your clothes thoroughly, and allow them to tumble-dry, not air dry. You should put the clothes on high heat setting for 10-15 minutes, as this will kill whatever ticks may have survived the wash. This simple post-hike activity can keep you and your wardrobe safe from infestation.
Cut Down on Deer Activity
If you are working in an area that is near a large deer population, set up a system to reduce deer populations in the area you will be spending time. Deer ticks are some of the most common, and can carry a number of different diseases. As the deer population continues to explode in certain parts of the world, the risk of deer tick-borne diseases rises.
Some natural options are well known for preventing tick-borne diseases, including the use of eucalyptus oil, almond oil and vinegar. This combination is highly unpleasant to ticks, and they will avoid latching on to skin that has been treated with this mixture. The vinegar and almond oil both possess high levels of sulfuric compounds, and the eucalyptus oil hides the smell. Garlic and garlic oil is also a good dietary addition, as the sulfur compounds in garlic are highly distasteful to ticks.
Timely Reporting of Incidents
At a work site, if you experience an injury or illness, or develop a rash or aching, be sure to report this quickly. Whoever reviews the cases will be more apt to recognize the symptoms or conditions of a tick-borne disease, and can recommend the proper treatment and steps to take. If you hesitate to report an injury or tick bite, you could be putting yourself at greater risk.