July 15, 2015 Healthy Living

Give Dangerous Bugs the Slip While Enjoying the Outdoors

Hiking, biking, walking, running, gardening: There are so many healthy outdoor pleasures to enjoy during our all-too-brief Northeast summers. Be sure you don’t cut the season short by coming down with a serious insect-borne disease. A few simple precautions will help.

Do Your Tick Checks

Lyme disease is transmitted by infected deer ticks and can affect people of any age. Individuals who spend time in grassy and wooded environments are at the greatest risk of exposure.

It is important to do a thorough body check for ticks after playing or working outdoors during the warm weather. Pay close attention to armpits, the areas behind the knees and ears, the hairline, the waist, and the groin.

In most cases, an infected tick needs to remain attached for 36 hours or more to transmit disease. If a tick is found on the body, remove it immediately with fine point tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible. If its mouthparts break off and remain in the skin, do not be alarmed. They cannot transmit Lyme disease if the body of the tick is no longer attached, and in a few days will dry up and fall out by themselves.

Often, but not always, the first sign of Lyme disease is a bull’s eye or solid rash that appears near the site of the bite. If you notice such a rash or flu-like symptoms and believe you may have been bitten, contact your health care provider right away.

Lyme disease is not the only disease that is transmitted by ticks. Others include babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If you will be spending any time in a grassy or wooded environment this summer, be sure to take these precautions:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Light-colored clothing will make it easier to spot and remove ticks.
  • Tuck your shirt in, and tuck your pants legs into your socks.
  • Check for ticks every two to three hours while outdoors and brush off any ticks you find before they attach.
  • Shower as soon as you get inside and perform a full-body check to be sure that no ticks are attached to your skin.

Don’t Let Mosquitoes Ruin the Fun

Another unwanted summer visitor is the mosquito. Any mosquito bite is unpleasant, but these tiny flying monsters can also give you West Nile virus or eastern equine encephalitis virus. Thankfully, these diseases are rare in our area, but they have been noted throughout New York and can make you very sick.

The best things you can do to stay safe include protecting your body and disrupting the wet environment in which mosquitoes thrive:

  • Cover your skin as completely as possible when outside when mosquitoes are present and active (long sleeves, pants, and socks).
  • Have screens in any windows and doors you leave open. Make sure they are free of rips, tears, and holes.
  • Eliminate all standing water around your property where mosquitoes can breed, including: plastic containers, pool covers, wading pools, ceramic pots, clogged drainpipes, and wheelbarrows. Change water in bird baths twice a week.
  • Clear vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.

Use Insect Repellents Safely

Repellents provide protection against both tick and mosquito bites but must be used safely. Preferably, choose a repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Products that contain permethrin are not safe to put on your skin, but they are OK to use on your clothes and gear.

Always follow the label directions carefully and avoid putting any of these chemicals near the eyes, nose, or mouth. When applying repellents to children, use tiny amounts and be sure not to put any on their hands, as they may rub their eyes or put their fingers in their mouths.


Photo by John Tann / CC BY

Brian Sheridan, MD
About the Author

Brian Sheridan, MD, joined CDPHP in April 2014 as a medical director, assisting in the utilization management of programs that offer premium health care at an affordable price. Prior to working at CDPHP, Dr. Sheridan’s experience includes his work in clinical practice as a pediatrician at Schoolhouse Road Pediatrics. Dr. Sheridan is an executive board member for the Guilderland YMCA and is the president of the Bus Stop Club, an organization dedicated to the siblings of children with chronic illness. Dr. Sheridan is a medical graduate from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and completed his residency in pediatrics at Albany Medical Center Hospital. He holds board certification in General Pediatrics. He earned his Bachelor of Science in psychology/biology from Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY.

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