Taking the Bite Out of Summer

Summertime brings ticks and mosquitos - safeguard yourself against these critters

So now that warm weather is here, you might have already experienced it: the eerie feeling of one crawling on your leg, or having a swarm of them cluster near your skin. Yes! The season for ticks and mosquitoes is upon us - literally, and they’re hot on the trail for blood.

Both pests are annoying in their own right, but because blood is their meal of choice, ticks and mosquitoes can cause some considerable health complications as well! In fact, their blood lust makes them the perfect vehicles for spreading diseases like Zika Virus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever among others.

The Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD says that, “. . . a bite can cause serious illness with major consequences like severe pain, long-term or permanent nerve and brain damage and even death.”

While severe reactions are the exception and not the rule, we could all benefit by taking a few precautionary steps to prevent bites from happening in the first place.

There are two methods for avoiding tick and mosquito bites. The first simply keeps them away from your body and the second keeps them away from your outdoor living areas. If you combine the two, you should be able to make it through these warmer months with very little if any contact with the critters at all.

KEEP MOSQUITOES AWAY FROM YOUR SKIN

Use a lotion or spray that contains DEET, Picaridin, IR 3535, or if you prefer a more natural method, go for a topical solution that contains oil of lemon or eucalyptus. For children, be sure to follow the recommendations on the products label.

The oils of lemon and eucalyptus are the only plant-based repellent recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are effective for warding off disease-carrying mosquitoes. A 2004 study in the Journal of Medical Entomology found that products containing 26% oil of lemon eucalyptus protected against West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes for about three hours longer than products containing 7% DEET.

The Centers for Disease Control Recommends:
Apply repellents only to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label). Do not apply repellents under your clothing.
Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using repellent sprays, do not spray directly on your face. Spray your hands first and then apply to your face.
Do not allow children to handle or spray the product. When using on children, apply to your own hands first and then put it on the child. Avoid applying repellent to children’s hands since they so frequently put their hands in their mouths.
After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days.
Cover your skin, especially your feet.
Wear lightweight, light colored clothes that hide your arms and legs.

KEEP TICKS OFF YOUR SKIN

As with mosquitoes, DEET seems to be the most effective product to repel ticks.
But while DEET repels ticks, Permethrin will work well as a second line of defense because it actually kills the ticks after only 30 seconds of exposure.
If you’re planning to hike or be outdoors for any length of time, you might want to consider tick repellent clothing which is treated with permethrin.
Apply permethrin and/or DEET to your shoes and socks if you’re planning to stay on a trail and out of tall grass.
But if you plan to be in the woods or in brushy areas, wear pants or apply DEET to your lower legs if you’re wearing shorts.
For maximum protection, wear treated clothing from top to bottom.

KEEP TICKS OUT OF YOUR YARD

Eliminate the places and environments where ticks live and thrive.
Mow the grass.
Clean up any leaf litter.
Add a gravel or wood chip buffer zone between lawns and wooded areas. Ticks hate gravel and wood chips, and they won’t be inclined to walk over these textures to get into your yard.

KEEP MOSQUITOES OUT OF YOUR YARD

Eliminate standing water. Even a small cup of water is enough to host a breeding area for mosquitoes.
Use plants that repel mosquitoes like citronella. You can buy candles, but the plant works wonders at repelling mosquitoes. It’ll repel deer too!

All of us here at Rocky Top Family Practice hope you enjoy these wonderful summer months with lots of outdoor time! Get out in the garden or go for a hike – make the most of our beautiful, Union County countryside, just be sure to take a minute or two and take the steps needed to keep these pesky critters at bay.

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