On the June 6 broadcast of Mayo Clinic Radio, microbiologist Bobbi Pritt, M.D., was asked about tick prevention this season. The one-hour radio show highlights health and medical information from Mayo Clinic.
After the first segment, co-hosts Tracy McCray and Tom Shives, M.D., spoke with Dr. Pritt, Director of the Clinical Parasitology Laboratory, about what individuals can do to prevent a tick from jumping on board when they’re outside.
Lyme Disease, Tick Habitats, and “Questing”
“Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne and vector-borne disease in the U.S.,” said Dr. Pritt. Typical symptoms include flu-like illness, possible fever, joint pains, and a red bull’s-eye rash located at the site where the tick bit the skin. “About 80 to 90 percent of people with Lyme disease will have that type of rash,” explained Dr. Pritt. “If you see a rash or you’ve seen an engorged tick on you, see your physician.”
Dr. Shives and Ms. McCray wanted to know more about tick habitats, and Dr. Pritt explained that it’s very important to know where ticks live if you like to be outside. “They enjoy long grasses, bushes, shrubs, leaf litter, stumps—basically forests,” she told the co-hosts.
For those who like to hike and enjoy the great outdoors, Dr. Pritt said to tuck pants into socks and wear long-sleeved shirts and hats. Also, wear insect repellent. “Don’t be afraid of DEET,” she said, “It’s not harmful to adults when used properly.”
Dr. Pritt also explained that questing is the process by which ticks are actively looking to crawl onto animals. The ticks crawl up a blade of grass or a twig, extend out their legs, and wait for unsuspecting customers.
Removing a Tick
If a tick is found on the skin, the best way to remove it is with a pair of fine forceps. “Get as close to the skin as possible,” explained Dr. Pritt, “And pinch the tick right by the head, pulling it out with regular pressure.
Kill any ticks you find to prevent them from biting someone else. You can do this by submerging them in alcohol, wrapping them in tape, or flushing them down the toilet. “Don’t twist or crush a tick [while trying to remove it],” added Dr. Pritt, “Because squeezing a tick between the fingers could force infectious agents from inside the tick into the bite site on the skin.”
Listen to the Podcast
To listen to the interview, the radio segment about Dr. Pritt’s blog begins at 21:17 and runs through 29:50. If you have time, the full show begins with Mayo Clinic general surgeon David Farley, M.D., who offers guidance on “lumps and bumps” on your skin, and it ends with nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky who discusses nutrition and food-borne safety at summer picnics.