How to protect yourself from ticks this summer
You don’t have to be traipsing through deep woodland to pick up a tick this summer. One
can latch onto you in any city park, even in Manhattan.
“You can absolutely pick them up in Central Park or Prospect Park,” says Dr. Roberto Posada, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital. “[They lurk] anywhere there’s grassy vegetation, but especially where the grass is taller.”
The good news is that most tick bites don’t make us sick. There are many different types of them, but the one Northeasterners fear most is the deer tick, which is responsible for causing Lyme disease. As bad as Lyme is, it isn’t as bad as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, another tick-borne illness common to the Southeast which can be fatal if not treated quickly. Even in this area, though, there are other illnesses — like babesiosis and anaplasmosis — that come from ticks.
The first thing to do if you suspect a bite, Dr. Posada advises, is to wash the area well with soap and water to minimize bacterial input. A rash is one indication of a bite. The deer tick produces a bullseye rash, while Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever produces small red dots around the feet and hands. Fever, aches and headaches are also symptoms that a tick has gotten to you.
Ticks are tiny and hard to spot until they’re fat and bloated with blood. (There’s not much about ticks that isn’t disgusting, really.) Removing them should be done carefully with tweezers.
“They attach by a nozzle, which buries into the skin,” says Posada. “Make sure you grab the nozzle and pull straight out — don’t pull side to side. You want to get all of the tick out.”
Prevent and treat
Tick bite infections (including Lyme disease) are treated with antibiotics. Still, prevention is better, says Posada: “No one wants to wear long sleeves and pants in summer, but clothing forms a barrier. They can’t attach themselves like they can with bare skin. Also, take a shower right after you’ve been hiking and do a body search.”