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Outdoors: after warm winter, be aware of ticks

With families and outdoor lovers taking to Penn’s Woods to hike and camp, be aware it’s tick season. And since we had a mild winter, tick populations could be higher and eager to attach themselves to our bodies.

According to Pennsylvania Department of Health, they’re warning residents that symptoms of Lyme disease, that’s transmitted through tick bites, are often similar to those of coronavirus. Both share similar symptoms of fever, chills, headache, muscle pain and more. And a telltale bull’s-eye around the tick bite may not appear.

Pennsylvania Department of Health says there’s been an increase in the number of ER visits due to tick bites over the last few months.

Last year, data has shown there were more than 8,500 cases of Lyme disease reported in Pennsylvania in 2019. But notes that count could be higher.

The department says ticks are common in woods, trails, public parks even some backyards, especially those who have a population of deer nearby. I have a friend who has a home off Oxford Drive in Allentown and not from Lehigh Parkway and in his residential area, he has numerous deer visiting his property while they feast on his ornamental bushes. So his lawn could be susceptible to holding ticks.

But not all ticks, says CDC, carry the disease. They add that ticks must be affixed to the body for 36-48 hours in order to transmit any disease. Most troublesome is the blacklegged tick that is also known as the deer tick which carries Lyme and is present in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.

Health officials recommend the following to prevent Lyme disease.

• Walk in the center of trails

• Avoid areas of high grass and leaves

• Wear light-colored clothing

• Conduct full-body checks on yourself and pets

• Take a bath of shower within two hours after coming indoors

It’s recommended applying an insect repellent, especially one that will deter ticks. Many deer and turkey hunters, who are most susceptible to picking up ticks, use a repellent with DEET or Permanone.

CDC says that Lyme disease can appear within two days after a bite, or can take up to 30 days for symptoms to manifest. Tick testing takes from 24-48 hours and sometimes less.

It’s interesting to note that ticks hatch from eggs and they have to eat blood at every stage of their formation to survive, says the CDC. They range in size from less than one-eighth of an inch up to about five-eighth of an inch. And they usually affix themselves upon detecting breath, body odor, body heat, moisture and vibration. Some species can even recognize a shadow, claims the agency.

Ticks wait for a host by resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs.

Once on the skin, the tick inserts its feeding tube that could have barbs to keep the bug in place. Many species can secrete a cement-like substance to keep them firmly in place.

If finding a tick, remove it as soon as possible using a fine-tipped tweezers. Make sure to pull straight up with a steady, even pressure to insure part of the tick doesn’t break off in the skin. Once it’s out, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Officials always recommend wearing hats, long sleeve shirts and long pants with the pant legs tucked into the top of hiking boots or at least using a rubber or Velcro band around the end of the pant legs. But occasional hikers and campers wear shorts in hot weather for comfort. The best idea then is to spray a repellent that can be used on bare skin or apply Avon’s Skin So Soft on exposed skin that’s been said to serve as a repellent.

Contributed photoThis tick has embedded itself in a person's skin.