By Bertha Hidalgo, PhD
As an epidemiologist, I believe in the power of knowledge to promote public health and prevent disease. In today's blog post, we will explore the fascinating world of tick-borne diseases and discuss ways to enjoy outdoor adventures while minimizing the risks associated with these tiny, but formidable creatures. So if you're an outdoor enthusiast, this article is for you.
Ticks are small arthropods that can transmit diseases to humans through their bites. These diseases, known as tick-borne diseases, are caused by various pathogens like bacteria, viruses, or parasites carried by ticks.
Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne illness worldwide. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted through bites from infected black-legged ticks, also called deer ticks. Early detection and treatment with antibiotics are vital to prevent long-term complications. Prevention is key in reducing the risks of tick-borne diseases. Here are practical measures to safeguard yourself when you’re outdoors:
- Wear Protective Clothing: When you’re in tick-prone areas, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and tuck your pants into your socks or boots to create a barrier against ticks.
- Use Effective Tick Repellents: Apply EPA-approved insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin to exposed skin. Treat clothing and gear with permethrin, an insecticide designed for this purpose. Follow repellent instructions carefully.
- Perform Thorough Tick Checks: After being outdoors, inspect your body for ticks. Pay close attention to hard-to-see areas like the scalp, behind the ears, under the arms, and around the waistband. Use fine-tipped tweezers to promptly remove attached ticks.
- Stick to Designated Trails: Stay on well-maintained trails to minimize contact with ticks in tall grasses and shrubby areas.
- Create Tick-Safe Zones: Keep your outdoor living spaces less attractive to ticks. Maintain lawns, remove leaf litter, and establish barriers between wooded areas and recreational spaces.
- Educate Yourself: Learn about prevalent tick-borne diseases in your area. If you experience concerning symptoms after a tick bite, consult a healthcare professional.
By taking these precautions, you can enjoy the wonders of nature without compromising your health. Stay safe, stay informed, and embark on your outdoor adventures with confidence!
Note: The information provided is for educational purposes only. Consult a healthcare professional or local health department for personalized advice on tick-borne diseases.
Bertha Hidalgo, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Associate Dean, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Director, Driving Research: An Interdisciplinary, Vibrant, Engaged Network (DRIVEN) Director, UAB Clinical and Translational Science Training Program (CTSTP)