EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As we start to spend more time outdoors, it’s important to get into the habit of carefully checking your clothes and hair for ticks.
Since we had a warmer than average winter, the tick population is expected to be higher than normal, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
An increase in ticks means an increase in tick bites, which could lead to more cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
Rhode Island had 839 cases of Lyme disease in 2020, data from the R.I. Department of Health shows, which equates to an incidence rate of 77 cases per 100,000 people.
“While Rhode Islanders are enjoying the great outdoors, we need to make sure we’re all taking these three key steps to preventing Lyme and other tick-borne diseases: Repel, Check, Remove,” said Dr. James McDonald, the Health Department’s interim director.
“Repel and reduce your exposure to ticks, check your body for ticks in the spots that they like to crawl and hide, and be sure to promptly and properly remove ticks,” he continued.
The Health Department offered the following tick prevention tips:
Keep ticks off you, your children, and pets by:
- Avoiding wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaves. If you are going to be in a wooded area, walk in the center of the trail to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaves at the edges of the trail. You can also spray your clothes with permethrin to keep ticks away. Make sure to not spray this on your skin.
- Wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts when outside.
- Tucking your pants into your socks so ticks do not crawl under your clothes.
- Wearing light-colored clothing so you can see ticks more easily.
Check yourself, your children, and pets, for ticks by:
- Taking a shower as soon as you come inside if you have been in grassy or wooded areas.
- Doing a full-body tick check using a mirror; parents should check their kids for ticks and pay special attention to the area in and around the ears, in the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in their hair.
- Checking your pets for ticks as well because they can bring ticks into the home.
Remove ticks from your body, as well as from children and pets, if you find them.
- Use a set of tweezers to remove the tick. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up.
- If you don’t have tweezers, use your fingers with a tissue or rubber gloves.
The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a rash that starts out as a red circle, then ends up looking like a bull’s-eye as it grows and the center changes color.
Not all begin with a rash, however. Other symptoms can include headaches, body aches, fever and fatigue.