HELENA — Out in the mountains, people spend a lot of time being on the lookout for big dangers like bears, mountain lions and moose. But there is something much smaller that people need to keep an eye out for too.
“It’s a really good time of the year for ticks," said Devon Cozart, a disease epidemiologist with the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services. "They start coming out and they are really hungry."
That’s right. It’s tick season. And if you’re out on a hike and one of these bloodsuckers attached itself to you for a snack it could lead to several problems.
“You might get some irritation in the area either way, of course, because your body realizes that you’ve been bit by something," said Cozart. "Much like after a mosquito bite or something like that, you might have some minor irritation. But what you want to watch for, even if you safely remove a tick, is going to be an actual rash developing in the area and then any onset of fever or chills or fatigue in the next two weeks.”
Luckily there is no known tick that carries Lyme disease here in the state, but Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, and tularemia are possibilities - so watching any tick bite carefully is important.
“If you find a tick on you one of the best things to do is to grab a pair of forceps if you have one of those in your medical kit or first aid kit and grab them (the tick) and try to grab them," said Laurie Kerzicnik, associate extension specialist at Montana State University. "Their mouthparts are barbs, so you want to try and grab as close as you can to the skin and pull that tick out as best you can.
On its website, DPHHS provides the following guidance on how to properly remove an attached tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. These methods are not recommended and may cause the tick to burrow deeper into the skin.
"If you agitate the tick too much while it’s on you or if you try to twist it and rip it out, what’s going to happen is that tick is actually going to regurgitate, and when that tick regurgitates it’s more likely that it’s going to pass a pathogen or some sort of infection onto you,” added Cozart.
"And the myth where you take a match and burn them from behind? That’s something you don’t want to do. It doesn’t work very well,” said Kerzicnik.
And just like when protecting yourself against bears, a good spray can help a lot.
“Avoid getting bit by the tick, there are various ways to do that. Of course you wear an EPA-recommended repellent and you can put that on your clothes and on your gear as well," said Cozart. "And along with that it’s good practice to, it’s going to sound funny, tuck your pants into your shoes. What that does is prevent the tick from getting in contact with your skin by possibly coming up your leg and under your pant."
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