As you venture outside to find some escape from quarantine and social distancing, the great outdoors was supposed to be an option to find some peace as COVID-19 shutdown everyday life. First came stories about “murder” hornets getting ready to wreak havoc on our lives, then swarms of cicadas popping out from underground and keeping you up late at night with their calls.
Now, it’s ticks.
Due to a mild winter on the East Coast, hikers, campers and those who like to explore the outdoors should remain cautious, CNN reported.
“We do have a bad year for the ticks,” said Eva Sapi, a University of New Haven biology professor, who also called it a “perfect storm” when thinking about tick-borne illnesses and COVID-19.
Regardless of whether it’s a good or bad season, Dr. Craig Stoops, a retired US Navy Medical Entomologist and chief science officer at Mosquito Authority, told Ladders that the scare of this tick season could be because more people are heading outside due to the coronavirus quarantine.
“Tick populations will vary from year to year depending on several environmental factors such as temperature and density of small mammal hosts,” Stoops said. “Tick season could be perceived as being worse due to people being eager to be outside due to recent COVID quarantine, and letting their guard down while in the woods and not thoroughly checking for tick bites.”
As CNN noted, symptoms of Lyme disease and COVID-19 are very similar. Dr. Segal Mauer told the outlet that both include a fever, muscle aches, headaches and severe fatigue. Breathing problems aren’t as common with Lyme disease, but they have been seen before with tick-borne infections.
“Pulmonary involvement, even to a fatal degree, has been documented in a range of tick-borne infections,” Dr. Steven Phillips of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation told CNN. “Although serious pulmonary involvement with vector-borne infections is relatively uncommon, non-specific pulmonary complaints, such as shortness of breath, are extremely common.”
Stoops said one of the best ways to protect yourself and prevent tick bites is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and using EPA-registered repellents. But first and foremost, make sure you’re wearing the right gear if you’re heading off the beaten path.
“You should wear close-toed shoes, long pants and long socks when engaging in outdoor activities,” Stoops said. “You can tuck your pants inside your socks to prevent ticks from gaining access to your legs. Wearing clothing treated with the synthetic pyrethroid Permethrin also can help prevent tick bites.”
He also advised at doing a “tick check” when you get home; it’s pivotal to ensure no ticks are found on your skin.
If you do find a tick on you, Stoops said to follow the CDC’s recommendations on how to safely remove it from your skin:
- 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 or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
Stoops added: “Several state health agencies and a few private companies offer to test ticks for any pathogens. The CDC also recommends if you start feeling sick, or notice a rash be sure to speak with your medical provider and make them aware of a recent tick bite, the type of tick and where you think you picked up the tick.”