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How to protect yourself during tick season in the Mid-South

ABC24 Photojournalist Shiela Whaley spoke with a Memphis area doctor to find out what families need to know.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Summer in the Mid-South heat, mosquitoes, and ticks. And with ticks comes the threat of Lyme Disease.

So what can families do to protect themselves while still enjoying the summer fun?

Dr. Jeff Mullins, a Family Practitioner with Methodist Healthcare, said first comes awareness. 

Check for ticks after spending time outside

“A good inspection of your body when you come inside will usually reveal if there’s a tick or not,” he said. “But just remember, seed ticks can be very, very small, just look like a piece of dirt on you. So, you need to flick it with your fingers to see if it comes off.”

How to remove a tick

What if you find a tick that won’t ‘flick’ off? He said whatever you do – don't use a burnt match.

“If you do have a tick, the best thing to do, don’t take a burnt match and touch it to the end or whatever. That will cause the tick to regurgitate its stomach contents into your body and that’s where the virus, bacteria lives,” said Dr. Mullins.

Okay, so no match. Then how can someone remove a tick safely?

“What you want to do is take some tweezers, grab as close to the head as you can. OK, don’t squeeze real hard. But squeeze firm enough to hold it. And just gently give pressure backwards until the tick releases,” said the doctor.

After removing a tick

The CDC says after removing a tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Don’t crush the tick with your fingers. The CDC says its best to put it in alcohol or in a sealed bag or container or flush it down the toilet.

Symptoms of Tick-related illnesses

Tick-related illnesses can cause a fever or chills, aches and pains – such as headaches, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and some other tick-related illnesses can also cause a rash.

More tips from the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers these tips on keeping ticks away:

  • Use of pesticides can reduce the number of ticks in treated areas of your yard. However, you should not rely on spraying to reduce your risk of infection.
  • Remove leaf litter.
  • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
  • Place a three-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
  • Mow the lawn frequently.
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents).
  • Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from yard edges and trees.
  • Discourage unwelcome animals (such as deer, raccoons and stray dogs) from entering your yard by constructing fences.
  • Remove old furniture, mattresses or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.

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