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NEWS | July 6, 2018

Tick tactics: avoiding the bite

By Senior Airman Tanya McKenzie 628th Aerospace Medical Squadron

One of summer’s most frequent nuisances is the reappearance of insects and arachnids. No matter where you are, they always seem to find their way on or around us. Ticks, arachnids that have been around for thousands of years, are no different. Identifying the different kinds, avoiding their bite, or knowing what to do if one does bite you is valuable information this time of year.


There are various species of ticks. The most common species in the South Carolina region are Blacklegged Tick (aka Deer Tick), Lone-Star Tick (aka Seed Tick), American Dog Tick (aka Wood Tick), and Brown Dog Tick.


The Blacklegged Tick is extremely small and is most known for spreading Lyme disease. Some of the symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash. Applying repellant, removing ticks promptly and applying pesticides are some ways to prevent Lyme disease.


The Lone-Star Tick is easier to recognize. The adult female tick sports a white dot on its back, prompting its “Lone-Star” name. Tularemia is one of the most common diseases associated with this tick. Its symptoms include a skin ulcer at the site of the bite, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fever, chills and fatigue.


The American Dog Tick, typically brown to reddish-brown in color with grayish markings on the upper body, causes Colorado Tick Fever, another malaise with signs and symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, body aches and fatigue. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another disease linked to the American Dog Tick, with symptoms including nausea, lack of appetite, fever and muscle pain.


Last, but not least, is the Brown Dog Tick. Although this uniformly dark reddish-brown tick is mostly a threat to pets, humans can also be affected through the spread of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.


This summer, be sure to take the necessary precautions to prevent tick bites while outdoors. Repellent is always a good idea, as is checking your clothing for ticks, particularly if you have been in a wooded area or in tall grass. A shower within two hours of outdoor activity that puts you at risk -- such as hiking, camping, gardening, clearing brush -- can help wash off or identify ticks.


If you are bitten by a tick, prompt removal is the best defense against the diseases described.  The longer the tick is in place, the higher the chance of transmission if the tick is carrying a disease. Below are the steps for proper removal of a tick:


  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick as 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.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. 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.

If you are ever bitten by a tick and start developing any of the above signs and symptoms, please see your PCM as soon as possible or go to the Emergency Room. If you have any questions or concerns, contact the 628th MDG Public Health Flight at (843) 963-6958 or (843) 963-6962 on the Air Base or the Preventive Medicine Department on the Naval Weapons Station at (843) 794-6571.