With summer picnic, camping and other outdoor activities in full swing, the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians offers a reminder to remember to take a few simple steps to protect yourself and your family from the Ohio insects that can make you sick.
Six of the 63 species of mosquitoes in Ohio are known to transmit diseases. These human illnesses spread by mosquitoes include West Nile Virus, La Crosse Encephalitis and St. Louis Encephalitis.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, which can include puddles, stagnant ditches and containers such as old tires, buckets, cans, and neglected swimming pools. These pools of water provide an outdoor resting place for mosquitoes most commonly associated with West Nile Virus.
Remember to apply mosquito repellant when participating in any outdoor activity — especially when fishing, camping or boating at night, suggests Boyd Hoddinott, MD, a family physician in Bellefontaine, Ohio and the Logan County Health Commissioner.
Dr. Hoddinott recommends using 30 percent DEET repellents for mosquitoes and ticks because they are safe in anyone over 2 months of age. He also suggests wearing light colored clothing with long pants tucked into socks when venturing into the outdoors and removing standing water and changing bird bath water every few days to prevent mosquito breeding.
“Children react much more to mosquito bites and can develop local swollen glands, but this is not serious. Symptoms of mosquito bites are that they itch and there is no treatment for them except possibly antihistamines and cool compresses,” he said.
“Mosquito bites are common, but the West Nile Virus and, in the south of Ohio, malaria carried by mosquitoes are not common,” said Dr. Hoddinott.
Ticks spread many diseases and are active in Ohio from early spring until late fall.
“There are three species of ticks in Ohio that cause human disease and the most common one, the deer tick or ‘black-legged tick,’ carries three diseases. The best known is Lyme disease. The good news is that up until 2011, only about 50 of the 30,000 yearly cases of Lyme disease in the United States were reported from Ohio. The bad news is that there has been a sudden increase in deer ticks with twice as many being reported in 2011 in Ohio as in all the previous reporting years combined. Watch for an uptick in cases of Lyme disease soon,” Dr. Hoddinott said.
Tick-borne diseases can be transmitted only by the bite of an infected tick, but the diseases cannot be spread person-to-person. Ticks normally become infected by eating the blood from an infected animal. Use caution when removing ticks from pets and be sure to check yourself and loved ones after spending time in ticks’ habitats. Showering within two hours of exposure will prevent tick attachment. It likely takes more than 24 hours of attachment to transmit Lyme disease.
“Tick bites may have no symptoms. The ‘bulls-eye’ rash is characteristic of Lyme disease but does not occur in all cases,” Dr. Hoddinott said. “You should contact your family physician if you see a ‘bulls-eye’ rash or think the tick could have been embedded for more than 24 hours. A prescription for doxycycline can prevent the development of Lyme disease in these cases.”
Follow these tips to help avoid mosquito bites:
• Make sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens.
• Repair or replace all torn screens in your home.
• Remove all discarded tires from your property.
• Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.
• Make sure roof gutters drain properly. Clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools and hot tubs. If not in use, keep empty and covered.
• Drain water from pool covers.
• Change the water in bird baths at least once a week.
• Turn over plastic wading pools, wheelbarrows, and other similar items when not in use.
• Clean ditches of obstructions so they drain properly.
• Eliminate any standing water that collects on your property.
• Check trees for cavities that hold water and fill them with soil, gravel, or sand.
• Remind or help neighbors to eliminate breeding sites on their properties.
• Use insect repellent with DEET and follow the label directions.
The risk of exposure to ticks and disease can be reduced by using these precautions:
• Avoid tick-infested areas (like wooded or weedy areas).
• If exposure is unavoidable, tuck pants into sock tops or boots.
• Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to find crawling ticks.
• Use repellants and follow label instructions carefully.
• Check children for ticks frequently.
• Use caution when handling ticks and dispose of properly.
• Dogs can become infected with tick-borne diseases.
• Dogs should be kept in well-mowed areas during tick season (April-September).
• Treatments are available to control ticks on dogs. Always follow label instructions.
• Inspect dogs for ticks every day. Ticks should be handled with caution and disposed of safely.
• Keep yard and outdoor play areas well mowed to discourage tick infestation.
• If a tick is attached, remove it as soon as possible; this reduces your risk of infection.
• Shield fingers with a paper towel or use tweezers. Grasp the tick close to the skin. With steady pressure, pull the tick straight up and out.
• Do not twist or jerk the tick. This may cause the mouth parts to be left in the skin.
• Do not crush or puncture the tick.
• Do not use a flame or cigarette to remove a tick. This may cause the tick to burst and increase disease risk.
• After removing a tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands with soap and water.