By: Dr. Dustin Gentry
It’s summertime in Mississippi and people everywhere are excited to finally go fishing, camping, hiking, and do other activities that can’t be enjoyed in colder weather. But if you live in Mississippi, you know that the great outdoors must be shared with all sorts of biting creatures – not the least of which is a host of different species of tick. In fact, in Mississippi it seems that being bitten by a tick is not a matter of chance, but a matter of time.
When the day comes that you find one of those tiny arachnids buried headfirst into your skin, stay calm. Most of the time there is no long-term consequence from being bitten by a tick. When removing a tick, care must be taken to avoid pulling so hard that the head or contents of the tick are left in the skin. Avoid painting the tick or covering it with petroleum jelly, while waiting for it to self detach. The tick should be removed as soon as reasonably possible. If you need help, make an appointment with your doctor.
Once the tick is finally removed, many tick-bitten people wonder if they have contracted Lyme Disease. Ironically, even though Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in America, it is a rare occurrence in Mississippi. A much more common infection in this state is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF).According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, there were only 2 cases of Lyme disease reported last year – compared with 36 cases of RMSF(http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/resources/6144.pdf).
The differences between Lyme Disease, RMSF, and other less-common tick-borne illnesses are beyond the scope of this article. But it is important to report any rashes, fatigue, headaches, body aches, or fevers to your doctor because of these illnesses share symptoms. Fortunately, most tick-borne diseases are easily cured with a round of antibiotics and time.
Probably the best advice concerning ticks comes from Benjamin Franklin who said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So avoid those pesky tick bites at all cost. Walk in the center of trails. Where hats, long sleeves, and pants when possible. Make sure you wear insect repellant, and be consistent with full-body inspections after going outdoors since tick bites often go unnoticed for long periods of time.
Dr. Dustin Gentry is a Family Medicine physician at Winston Medical Center. He has an active clinic and hospital practice at WMC and is available for all your healthcare needs. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gentry call 662-773-3503.