By K.D. Norris
For West Michiganders, at least those sticking around the Grand Rapids area and not heading up north, a Memorial Day weekend visit to the Lake Michigan shoreline is a great option if not a must.
But with the un-official start of the summer outdoor season also a Memorial Day weekend, outdoor adventures also bring the un-official start of Michigan’s deer tick season — and with black legged (deer) ticks comes the risk of Lyme disease.
Most humans are infected with Lyme disease through the bites of immature ticks, called nymphs, that feed during the spring and summer months. But these nymphs are approximately the size of a poppy seed, so they are hard to see.
“Prompt removal of ticks is the best method to decrease the chance of Lyme disease,” Dr. Paul Heidel, Ottawa County Department of Public Health medical director, said in supplied material. “Seek medical attention if you develop a fever, a rash, severe fatigue, facial paralysis, or joint pain within 30 days of being bitten by a tick.”
Routinely, ticks must be attached for 36 to 48 hours for the Lyme disease bacterium to be transmitted.
The State of Michigan and local health officials have suggestions to avoid Lyme-carrying ticks:
When outdoors, walk in the center of trails, and avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass.
Around home, create tick-safe zones in your yard by keeping patios and play areas away from vegetation, regularly remove leaves, clear tall grasses and brush around home, place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas, and use a chemical control agent.
Use an insect repellent containing DEET (20-30 percent) or Picaridin on exposed skin, and treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks and tents) with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin — do not use permethrin directly on skin. (Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.)
Bathe or shower after being outside in tick-infested areas (preferably within two hours). And conduct a full-body tick check (under arms, in and around ears, inside belly button, behind knees, between legs, around waist and especially in hair), especially inspect children.
Finally, if you find a tick attached, 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. Clean the area with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.