NASHVILLE, Tenn. – While ticks and mosquitoes are setting records for early arrival and rates of infectious diseases carried, the Department of Health reminds everyone that most people should not avoid healthy outdoor activity.
“Outdoor physical activity provides too many important health benefits to be cancelled because of ticks and mosquitoes,” said Abelardo Moncayo, Ph.D., with TDH Communicable and Environmental Diseases and Emergency Preparedness. ”It’s true diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever carried by ticks and West Nile virus carried by mosquitoes can be quite serious. Effective tick and mosquito-borne disease prevention strategies should be part of healthy outdoor exercise and recreation.”
Follow these suggestions for avoiding insect bites:
- Use insect repellants such as DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 on your skin, following all label recommendations for usage. Pay particular attention to recommendations for use on children, and never apply any of these products around the mouth or eyes at any age. Consult your health care provider if you have questions.
- Certain products containing permethrin are recommended for use on clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear. Permethrin is highly effective as a repellent. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes and other pests and retains this effect after repeated laundering. Some commercial products are available pretreated with permethrin. Permethrin is not to be used directly on skin.
- Do not use perfumes, colognes or scented deodorants or soap if you’re going outside, as fragrances may attract insects.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing to prevent bites through the fabric. Long-sleeve shirts and long pants are best. For improved effectiveness, tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants to form bug barriers.
- Wear light-colored clothing when possible so ticks and crawling insects can more easily be seen and removed.
- Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk; be mindful of their feeding patterns and take extra precautions at these times.
If you find a tick embedded in your skin, don’t use fingernail polish, matches or oil as a home remedy to remove it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following steps:
- 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 mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouthparts with tweezers. If you’re 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.
- If you experience nausea, fever, chills, aches or rashes after a tick bite, contact your health care provider; these could be signs of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
While most mosquito and tick bites are minor irritations, individuals should contact their health care provider if they experience a sudden onset of fever, headache and body aches during the spring and summer months. People with Rocky Mountain spotted fever may also experience nausea and vomiting.
“A combination of preventive measures should allow most Tennesseans to be active outdoors,” said Moncayo. “We always advise those with known health conditions to consult with their health care provider before engaging in strenuous outdoor activities.”
Some areas in Tennessee are already reporting positive tests for West Nile virus in mosquitoes. Mild winter weather may have contributed to early growth of local mosquito populations. WNV can also impact birds; individuals who see a dead crow or blue jay on their property are urged to contact their local health department, which can coordinate testing of the bird. This can serve as an early warning if WNV is present in a community. For contact information for your local health department, visit http://health.state.tn.us/localdepartments.htm.
To learn more about West Nile Virus, visit the TDH website at http://health.state.tn.us/ceds/WNV/wnvhome.asp.
For more information on protecting yourself from ticks, visit www.cdc.gov/Features/StopTicks/.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of those who live in, work in or visit Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.