Ticks in Virginia: Risks and Prevention Tips

by | Jun 17, 2024 | Summer Health

As the warm weather settles in, it’s time to enjoy the great outdoors in beautiful Virginia. Whether you’re hiking the trails, exploring our scenic countryside, or enjoying a picnic in one of our lovely local parks, it’s important to be aware of the tiny, yet potentially troublesome, ticks. These small arachnids can pose significant health risks if not responsibly managed. Here’s what you need to know about ticks in our area and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Understanding the Risks

Ticks are more than just a nuisance; they can carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and Alpha-gal Syndrome. Here’s a quick overview of the potential health risks:

  • Lyme Disease: Transmitted by the black-legged tick, Lyme disease can cause symptoms ranging from fever and headaches to severe joint pain if not treated early.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Spread by the American dog tick, this disease can lead to severe complications if not promptly treated.
  • Ehrlichiosis: Another illness transmitted by ticks, causing flu-like symptoms that can become severe without medical attention.
  • Alpha-gal Syndrome: This condition is caused by a bite from the Lone Star tick and leads to an allergy to red meat (such as beef, pork, and lamb) and other mammal products. Symptoms can include hives, swelling, and even severe anaphylactic reactions several hours after consuming red meat.

Prevention Tips

Prevention is key when it comes to ticks. Here are some tips to help you stay safe:

  1. Dress Smart: When venturing into tick-prone areas, wear long sleeves and long pants and tuck your pants into your socks. Light-colored clothing makes it easier to spot ticks.
  2. Use Repellents: Apply an EPA-approved insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, or permethrin. Treating your clothes and gear with permethrin can also provide additional protection.
  3. Stay on Trails: Ticks are commonly found in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas. Stick to the center of trails and avoid tall grasses and bushes.
  4. Perform Tick Checks: After spending time outdoors, thoroughly check your body and pets for ticks. Pay special attention to areas like the scalp, behind the ears, armpits, and behind the knees.
  5. Shower After Being Outdoors: Showering within two hours of coming indoors can help wash off ticks and make it easier to spot them.
  6. Care for Your Pets: Use tick preventatives recommended by your vet, and regularly check your pets for ticks, especially if they spend a lot of time outside.

What to Do If You Find a Tick

If you find a tick on your body, don’t panic. Here’s how to safely remove it:

  1. Use Fine-Tipped Tweezers: Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull Upward: Apply steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking, which can cause the tick’s mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin.
  3. Clean the Area: After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  4. Keep the Tick: Place the tick in a sealed bag or container and store it in the freezer. If symptoms develop, this can help healthcare providers identify the tick and diagnose any tick-borne illnesses.
  5. Dispose of the Tick: If you do not need to keep the tick, submerge it in alcohol, place it in a sealed bag/container, wrap it tightly in tape, or flush it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you develop symptoms such as rash, fever, fatigue or muscle/joint pain within a few weeks of a tick bite — or if you show signs of an allergic reaction after consuming red meat — contact Access HealthCare immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for preventing more serious health issues.

By staying informed and taking preventive measures, you can safely enjoy all that our beautiful region has to offer. For more health tips and services, visit our blog. Stay safe and tick-free!